Thursday, August 2, 2012

Die Zauberflöte – Zurich 2000 (Part 2: Pounced into eternal night)

Recap of the last post: Music 10 (well sung, well played), Looks 3 (we are not (very) amused)
Jonathan Miller told an interviewer that the Queen of the Night is the Empress Maria Theresa, and the opera is about light and reason and freemasonry.
So this production is regie, but maybe it isn't? Sort of.  It could  be.  I feel Miller should go further to make his point about the enlightenment and freemasonry.* Be more French. Somehow make it clear why he bothered.  

To my view, this staging of Die Zauberflöte isn’t colorful/cute/pretty enough to be traditional; and it’s not anything else enough to say something new.  That the set is a combination library/temple is a good start, but that never goes anywhere. Well, literally, it moves and reconfigures, but since its all grey stone, if you look away during a scene change, you can’t really notice much difference.
It seems that a lot of the action (or inaction), Tamino’s trials, for example, takes place offstage. Act 2 shows us way too much of the empty stage. I don’t need literal fire and water (though that would be nice) but give me something.  I’m not sure how I would stage the trials, but it wouldn’t be this way. 
Another tough scene to stage is the KdN’s defeat at the end of Act 2. Here’s Dr. Miller’s solution:  Sudden bright light; Ladies and Monostatos flee; KdN kneels down to Sarastro; KdN gets up and walks off stage. YAWN. What just happened?
I read a review that complained about the subtitles, and my first reaction was, “Thpffft!” But I found out they really are terrible.  The description of the KdN as “Star-blazing” is translated as refulgent.** And there are many, many, many typos; as the KdN and her ladies are vanquished, they supposedly sing, “We are pounced into eternal night!”
Having said all that, I still think you should hear it. The singers are all really good if not great (Malin Hartelius is always great—and pretty, too)  and you can pick it up cheap at  I've included a few more clips below.

Pamina reassures Papageno he will find his mate soon.
(They actually make a nice couple, eh?)

Vive le France? The finale. 

*For further elaboration, we can look to A Profile of Jonathan Miller by Michael Romaine. There, Miller states of his Magic Flute:
“… I was trying to get away from the traditional modern notion of masonry. Unfortunately most people, when representing freemasonry…do so in terms of modern freemasonry – that is so fundamentally different from freemasonry as it was conceived in the eighteenth century, when it still had its Rosicrucian roots, as well as its horizontal connections with other occultist movements in Europe and notions of ancient wisdom and theology. I simply had to retrieve what it meant for people at the time.”  
**re·ful·gent . adj. Shining radiantly; resplendent. (Yes, I had to look it up.)  


  1. Ah, the eighteenth century, when Freemasonry still had its Rosicrucian roots . . .

    I love the "pounced into eternal night!" line. I should start collecting bizarre subtitle translations: there are a lot of them. I remember in the DVD of Cavalli's La Calisto that I watched recently, the English had "grots" for "grottos" - the line was something about "you will wander in the shady grots" or something. I have to wonder who is responsible for proofreading translations - possibly no one.

  2. LOL. I am used to seeing the occasional subtitle glitch; but this one looks like someone ran it through Google Translate, then uploaded as is.

    (Welcome as earwormopera! You got it to work!)

    1. (I did! Took two tries for that comment, but wordpress will now play with google blogger - finally.)


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