Assistant News Editor
This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House for Dallas Year’s last event of the semester: a performance of Mozart’s final opera The Magic Flute, which debuted five months before his death.
The opera takes place in “an imaginary Egypt,” where Prince Tamino (Shawn Mathey) faints at the sight of a beast and is saved by three ladies (Caitlin Lynch, Lauren McNeese, Maya Lahyani). While they leave to tell the Queen of the Night (L’ubica Vargicova) what has happened, the birdcatcher Papageno (Patrick Carfizzi) claims that he killed the beast. Papageno is briefly punished by the ladies for this lie, the ladies then return with a picture of the Queen’s daughter, Pamina (Ava Pine), whom Tamino instantly falls in love with. After praising her beauty and declaring his love for her, Tamino is visited by the Queen and told he must rescue Pamina; the Queen forces Papageno to travel with Tamino. Before they start their journey, they receive a magic flute and magic silver bells to protect them, with the Three Genii as their guides (Katie King, Emmie Arduino, Abby Lysinger).
Upon arriving in Sarastro’s (Raymond Aceto) kingdom, where Pamina is being held captive, Papageno frightens off Monostatos (David Cangelosi) and tells Pamina about Tamino and his love for her and intent to save her. Tamino reaches the Temple of Sarastro, where he is told that it is actually the Queen of the Night who is evil and that Pamina is safe. After much running around, Sarastro punishes Monostatos for chasing Pamina and Papageno, while promising Pamina that she will soon be free. Meanwhile, Pamina and Tamino finally meet for a short time.
The rest of the opera is a test of Tamino’s and Papageno’s individual constitutions; if they pass, Tamino will be allowed to wed his beloved Pamina, and Papageno will know the love of a woman whom he has always sought. While Tamino passes the trials without much difficulty, Papageno is ultimately denied initiation, but promises his faith to an old lady, who turns into a young Papagena (Angela Mannino) and then vanishes. To make things more difficult, Pamina does not understand the silence that Tamino must uphold, making her say that she wishes to kill herself rather than die of grief.
Papageno also almost kills himself, but the Genii save both of the distressed lovers. Pamina then accompanies Tamino through the trials of water and fire, protected by the magic flute, while Papageno uses his bells to summon Papagena, as they settle together in a bird’s nest to start their future. The Queen of the Night, the three ladies and Monostatos attack the temple, but fail and are banished by Sarastro, as Pamina and Tamino celebrate their victory in the trials.
The singers were all very talented, especially considering they performed in German, but I was most impressed with Vargicova’s and Carfizzi’s performances; they gave life to the opera. I found the building itself, which was finished two years ago, to be very modern and elegant. (I was quite impressed that they solved a problem in the Phantom of the Opera, too, by making the chandelier retractable, but maybe I’m too easily entertained.)
Mozart composed this opera as a “people’s opera,” as opposed to something grandiose intended for only a select elite. I found that the themes of good over evil and the complicated nature of love (with many jabs at women in particular!) were something relatable to the audience. In this adaptation, there were actually modern twists in the plot, involving Lone Star beer and mention of a football team!
As far as my first opera goes, I’m glad it was The Magic Flute. It made for a great afternoon spent with some close friends, and we found it funny and engaging until the end.