Our production of The Magic Flute has officially begun, so we asked some of the opera's stars to tell us about their memories of this masterpiece. Click here if you missed the first part of this two-part blog exclusive!
Kirsten MacKinnon – Pamina
"The Magic Flute was my very first opera. I sang as one of the three spirits with Vancouver Opera when I was 10 years old and had a blast. I can't believe what a dream it is that the very next time I get to perform The Magic Flute, it's with the COC and I'm now singing Pamina. I've always loved Mozart (he and I are pretty tight) but The Magic Flute is particularly special to me since it's the first opera I ever performed. Pamina is a pleasure to sing. Who wouldn't want to play a princess?
"Flute is a favourite not only because of the music. The characters really make the show. I'd go for Papageno alone. He can be such a quirky weirdo and I completely dig it!"
Ambur Braid – Queen of the Night
"I first heard some of The Magic Flute in the movie Amadeus and it was captivating.
"Deep down, The Magic Flute is a very spiritual and human story about being a better individual in a crazy world. It's filled with advice like 'be steadfast, be patient, be silent' and opens with a large snake going after Tamino, the image most connected to achieving a higher state of consciousness. It's about self-improvement and morals. Who doesn't want their kids to learn about this stuff?!
"There's something for everyone in The Magic Flute. You can laugh, cry, and maybe even change the world.
"Villains are appealing and the Queen of the Night is an incredible lady. Yes, she has some pretty famous high notes, but she's a woman who is obsessed with power and that can be pretty ugly. We all have that desire inside of us, so it's nice to play the dark characters to keep it in check. Mwa ha ha!"
Joshua Hopkins – Papageno
"The first time I saw The Magic Flute I was transported. It was only the third live
opera I had ever seen and I was lucky enough to watch my wife (then
girlfriend) sing Second Lady in a Toronto-based young artist summer
program. The production was set in, of all things, the Star Trek universe. Papageno's character
was recast as Data, from the series Star
Trek: The Next Generation, which I watched religiously growing up. I
thought the concept really worked!
"Alongside some of Mozart's most glorious and
tuneful music, the story is entertaining and enchanting. It is a
fairy-tale that speaks to all ages, having characters to whom the audience can
relate, like the character I play, Papageno, and his long-lost love, Pagagena, who keep the story grounded. The opera has adventure in foreign lands, the
search for true love and plenty of laughs making it perfect for young audiences
and first-time opera-goers.
"I love so many aspects
of playing the role of Papageno. He is the only character in the opera who
steadily 'breaks the fourth wall' and directly communicates with the
audience. In most of the roles I sing in opera, I don't normally get
scenes with dialogue so I relish the chance to exercise my acting chops and
find my own comedic timing. Despite having performed in six different
productions throughout my career, this is actually the first in which I will be
speaking the dialogue in German!"
"I first saw The Magic Flute performed at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb while I was still in high school. I remember I admired the Queen of the Night and her fantastic arias, but didn't pay that much attention to Sarastro. Some years later, when I was student of opera studies at the University of Zagreb, I sang my first Sarastro ever in the same production and was brought full circle.
"The Magic Flute is like mille-feuille; it has a bit of everything for everyone. There is a fantastical side, where human beings talk to the animals and dragons; there are a few love stories; there is a huge story about the relationship between children and parents; and at least one, if not more, philosophical clashes. All of that through the stories of Papagena and Papageno, Pamina and Tamino, and the Queen of the Night and Sarastro. Mozart's music gives body and soul to Schikaneder's libretto. Almost every character has a hit aria, and all of these arias are different from each other; one cannot be bored listening to this opera. The frame-story of Papagena and Papageno and Pamina and Tamino are so popular, especially among young audiences, because they can relate to them and Mozart's marvelous music, with ear-worm arias delivering those stories in a super interesting way. There are so many well-connected layers in this opera.
"Sometimes the ambivalence of the characters to the Queen of the Night and Sarastro drives me crazy. I've sung this role so many times in different productions and I still don't have a clue who's positive and who's negative towards them. Every production gives me new answers to that question.
"I'm so sad that the Queen of the Night and Sarastro don't have a duet. Can you imagine what it would be like to listen to the two most extreme human voices, a coloratura soprano and a dark bass, clashing in a musical way? I hope one day some composer will add that number to this opera and I hope Wolfgang won't be mad."
Photo credits (top - bottom): Charles Sy (left), Goran Jurić (centre), and Martin Gantner (far right) in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Chris Hutcheson; Kirsten MacKinnon in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper; Ambur Braid in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Gary Beechey; Joshua Hopkins in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper; Goran Jurić in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper.
Posted by Tanner Davies / in The Magic Flute / comments (0) / permalink
Our production of The Magic Flute has officially begun! Opera singers and fans alike have personal stories of their first Flute experiences, so we thought we would share some of our cast's earliest memories. Stay tuned for the second part of this two-part blog exclusive!
ANDREW HAJI – TAMINO
"The first time I saw The Magic Flute was back in 2011 here at the COC. I was in my last year of undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto and had, by that time, decided to pursue a master's degree with the University of Toronto’s opera school. Watching this incredible—and incredibly charming—production made me even more excited to be pursuing opera as a career. Now, to be able to perform in that very same production, I couldn't be more thrilled!
"The Magic Flute transports the audience into a fantasy world, where anything is possible. It's sort of like the Harry Potter series, in that it gives your mind the license to imagine and to dream. Many other operas exist in 'the real world' and as such aren't able to really bring the audience to that special place. That's also why it's accessible for people of all ages—imagination has no age limit!
"The music in The Magic Flute is sublime—some of Mozart's best work. It's beautiful to listen to, but also a great pleasure to sing. My very first aria, "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön," is one of the most beloved in the tenor repertoire. And there are some really fun duets and ensembles sprinkled throughout the piece, which makes the opera a great joy to perform!"
Elena Tsallagova – Pamina
"I was 12 when I first heard The Magic Flute. I wasn't familiar with opera and had never been to one before. My parents are musicians and I suppose they knew the best way to introduce a child to the complex art form of opera. I saw my first opera on DVD and it was a famous recording from the Met in 1991, with Kathleen Battle singing Pamina and James Levine conducting. I remember I watched it breathless and now I can listen to Flute with no less great anticipation—each time I discover something new.
"The secret of The Magic Flute, as it seems to me, is in the simplicity of perception; there are no complicated melodies or special effects—everything is brilliant and simple, from the music to the storylines. Perhaps it is what makes Flute more accessible to future opera lovers. It is important for the audience to take pleasure from what they see and hear, and for older audience members, it can be a different experience and as the opera’s more complex issues are revealed.
"Some may look at it as a story of great love which overcomes all difficulties and, for some, a beautiful fairy tale with a happy ending and funny adventures of heroes.
"I just love Pamina's character a lot. This is one of my favourite heroines. Pamina is a guardian of love, and is brave and purposeful. She goes through all the trials together with her beloved one and aims to win. Being a woman, it is normal for her to have some failures and doubts but she finds herself encouraged and motivated to fight further and she wins again.
"She is not the one who would be hovering in the clouds, and reacts according to unfolding circumstances. Honestly, I think I could learn from some of the features of Pamina's character in my own life, because I'm very much fond of her as an ideal example of a loving, strong personality."
Phillip Addis – Papageno
"I believe my first experience of The Magic Flute was the Ingmar Bergman film, probably on PBS. The first live performance I saw would have been by Opera Atelier, here in Toronto. In both cases, the tone of the storytelling acknowledged the humanity behind the theatrics. It's hard to resist genius that doesn't take itself too seriously.
"Personally, I am still struck by the juxtaposition of the grand and the intimate, in both the story and the music. I think Mozart hoped to create something that was at once endearing and universal. So, no matter what expectations a new audience brings with them, they'll be both satisfied and surprised.
"I love how simply Papageno wants to live his life, and how honest he is about his hopes and desires. I think this is the life Mozart himself wished he could have had."
Matt Boehler – Sarastro
"The first time I heard the opera was during my years as a theatre major in undergrad. I was cast as Sarastro in my college's opera production that year, and, aside from beginning to work on the arias with my voice teacher, I hadn't listened to it before in its entirety. I was immediately drawn in by its whimsical sense of humor.
"The world of The Magic Flute is a place where reality is turned on its head, and where anything is possible. With fantastical characters and music that veers from light comedy to sincere tragedy, it has something for everyone.
"Honestly, singing all of those low notes is just great fun."
The Magic Flute is on stage at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts until February 24, 2017. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
Photo credits (top - bottom): A scene from The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Chris Hutcheson; Andrew Haji in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper; Elena Tsallagova in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper; Phillip Addis in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper; Matt Boehler and Kirsten MacKinnon in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper.
By Nikita Gourski, Development Communications Officer
The depth of Mozart’s genius is evidenced by his last opera, The Magic Flute. A child-like fantasy is paired with the master’s most stunningly beautiful music. Do you need to brush up on your Flute knowledge or simply want to learn more about our upcoming production? Here are 10 Things About The Magic Flute!
Mozart worked during what is now known as the Classical period (roughly 1750-1820), when composers sought to move beyond the elaborate forms and “artificial” gestures of the Baroque era in order to capture raw human emotions—such as love, anger, sadness, etc.—with greater immediacy. Classical composers were interested in expanding the dramatic palette of music while simultaneously embracing simpler melodies that were written in evenly structured phrases, making them catchier and more memorable. (Indeed, The Magic Flute features possibly the catchiest passage for soprano ever written: the Queen of the Night aria in Act II.)
In his short lifetime, Mozart composed more than 600 works, including symphonies, piano sonatas, chamber music, choral masses, dances, concertos, art songs, and operas. He died less than two months after Flute had its world premiere in Vienna in 1791 and consequently never knew the full extent of its success: just over a year after the premiere, it celebrated its 100th performance and continued to grow in popularity ever since. Today, it is Mozart’s most frequently performed opera.
Flute is the most famous example of a singspiel (meaning literally “sing-play” in German)—an operatic form in which musical numbers (arias, ensembles, etc.) alternate with sections of spoken dialogue.
The plot of Flute concerns a noble prince, Tamino, who is ordered by the mysterious Queen of the Night to rescue a beautiful kidnapped princess, Pamina. With the aid of his comic sidekick—the bird catcher Papageno—and the help of a magic flute, Tamino sets off on an epic quest through the trials and tribulations of love.
Both Mozart and his friend Emanuel Schikaneder—who wrote the opera’s libretto and starred in the premiere as Papageno—were members of the same Masonic lodge, and the opera reflects their fascination with the rituals of Freemasonry. For example, in a nod to Masonic practices of initiation, Tamino goes through several rites of passage to enter the brotherhood of the temple before he can become worthy of Pamina’s love. Mozart was also immersed in the emerging ideas of the Enlightenment period—an intellectual attitude that placed reason at the centre of human potential—which is evidenced in the names of the temples Tamino must enter: Wisdom, Reason, and Nature.
This COC production (premiered in 2011) was created by Tony Award-winning Broadway director Diane Paulus with set and costume designer Myung Hee Cho. “We wanted to capture the fairy tale aspect,” Paulus said at the time, “but also bring out the deeper meanings of enlightenment, and ritual, and Masonic architecture, and structure and enigma that are hidden inside.”
Paulus and her team begin with an 18th-century “name day” party, at which the action of Mozart’s opera is being staged as part of the celebrations. Consequently we see a charming stage on the stage, where the opening scenes of the opera play out. But as we move further into the story, the initial framing device falls away, giving us the effect of getting lost in the opera and its story—not to mention a constantly rearranging garden maze—just as the party guests do.
The costumes by Myung Hee Cho reflect the historical fashion of Mozart’s time (18th century) while incorporating contemporary influences and materials; for example, the spiked hair and leather outfits of the Queen of the Night and her three ladies. Cho also captures the essential fairy tale quality of Flute in her designs for the forest animals and three-headed dragon that appear in the show, all while keeping the feel of these creations decidedly low-tech, continuous with the notion that somebody is staging a play in their own garden.
This production features the COC debut of eminent Canadian conductor Bernard Labadie, who has performed with Glimmerglass, Santa Fe, and the Metropolitan Opera, among other prestigious destinations. “He moulds the phrases, plucks out all-important details in the texture and radiates an infectious joy in the music” (The Telegraph).
This production features numerous artists—including tenors Andrew Haji and Owen McCausland as Tamino; Ambur Braid as Queen of the Night; and Jacqueline Woodley as Papagena—who are either graduates or current members of the COC’s Ensemble Studio training program. Their presence on the mainstage of one of the world’s finest opera houses speaks to the quality of preparation the Ensemble Studio has been delivering for more than three decades.
The Magic Flute is on stage at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts from January 19 to February 24. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
Photo credits (top - bottom): Andrew Haji and Elena Tsallagova in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo: Michael Cooper; Ambur Braid as the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo: Gary Beechey; Lauren Segal as the Third Lady, Emily D'Angelo as the Second Lady, Aviva Fortunata as the First Lady and Andrew Haji as Tamino in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo: Michael Cooper; Jacqueline Woodley as Papagena and Joshua Hopkins as Papageno in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo: Michael Cooper.
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001