Lydia Steier created a lovely Magic Flute for the Salzburg Festival. Mozart's most famious opera interpreted as a fairytale. Magic Flute was often searched for deeper meanings due to being a composition of Mozart. However, there is no reason for that. The libretto and the intention of the opera has no clues of hidden messages. This production focuses mainly of the entertaining purpose of this opera.
In the overture, we saw a woman in the living room that gets mad for some reason. The maid helps three children to go to bad and their grandfather prepares to read them a fairytale. When overture ends, after a brief silence, he starts to read the story chapter by chapter. Each chapter has a unique name and a beginning sentences that makes it easy to follow. But the intention is not to make opera easier to understand, rather make it a fairytale story staged from the imagination of a child.
When the first act starts, we are still in three children’s house and the prince comes from their window. The characters of the story were played by the household of the three boy’s since children tend to imagine the stories based on their lives. Papageno turns out to be the butcher’s son (as three boys recall him in the middle of the music), and the three angels were the maids. The Queen of the Night was their mother. Turning the Magic Flute into a fairytale makes sense, since the opera is already like a fairytale. Seeing this from the imagination of a child again was amusing. Also, when imagining the story, children were so realistic; three angels killed the monster with a gun, we didn’t see the monster on the stage, all the costumes were ordinary outfits, characters were similar to household etc. The only downside is that Papageno didn’t have a costume that we are used to: but it was a clever reference to turn a ‘bird catcher’ into ‘butcher’s son’.
Having a narrator in the story was interesting. The reinterpretation of the story could be easily expressed without the narrator also. But having one, make the fairytale more believable. Sometimes, I felt like it interrupts the music by pausing everything. But at some points, it gave a groundwork for the director’s understanding of the story. For example, three boys constantly asked questions when they didn’t convinced by the story and the grandfather’s answer give the director’s opinion. They asked ‘where is Tamino?’ when Papageno arrived to Sarastro’s place. When Monostatos tried to force Pamina, three boys begged their grandfather to change the story; they said ‘somebody should help Pamina’ right before the Queen of the Night arrives. Three boys were also involved in the story, they are also the ‘three little boys’ in the real story. Narrator also has some jokes. In the beginning of the chapter he always started to say somebody’s line and then the story begins with that character and that line. Sometimes he repeated the line until finally the character says it –as if the characters has forgotten the line-, sometimes characters said before the narrator when he replies as ‘danke schön’. These moments – although it was predictable- amused the audience.
The one thing I didn’t understand and like in this production was the Sarastro’s staging. All the characters and the décor was belong to a circus. Pamina was dressed like an acrobat, not like a princess. There was a metal construction at the background with lots of characters from a circus. Is this how the children imagined the place? It was nothing to do with evil vs good; the trials etc. I just like that the original home setting was present most of the time. The old Papagena was like a plastic toy that the younh Papagena come out from the skirt.
The lighing was great; the entrences of the Queen of the Night, the reading light.. We clearly understand when we are seeing the story and when we are in the reality. Vienna Philharmonic was delicious as always – really, there is no other word for it. :) In general, the production was entertaining, but I am not sure if I recommend this one if you have only one chance to see Die Zauberflöte.