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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Re: Magic Flute

From:

Peter Goldstein <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 3 Mar 2000 07:58:28 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (71 lines)

Talking about the sublime, the ridiculous, and The Magic Flute gives me a
chance to plug my favorite opera book:  A NIGHT AT THE OPERA by Sir Denis
Forman (1998 Random House paperback; original 1994 British title THE GOOD
OPERA GUIDE).  It gives plot summaries, musical synopses, background and
commentary on 83 operas, then adds sections on composers, conductors,
singers, and miscellaneous operatica.  Forman was deputy chairman of the
Royal Opera House at Covent garden for 9 years, and his approach is loving,
unpretentious, and (to say the least) irreverent.  The book is informative,
provocative, and extremely funny.  Here are some excerpts from the section
on The Magic Flute (forgive the length, but they give you the full flavor):

 From plot summary:

   "Papageno an ornithological nutcase enters dressed as bird carrying
   cages of birds etc.  I'm a cheerful birdlike chappie he says and I'm
   fed up with catching forest birds.  I fancy birds of another kind
   for sex romps domestic bliss etc.  Who are you? asks Tamino incidentally
   I am very classy royal son of important foreign king.  Me? says
   Papageno.  I am a totally ignorant bum employed by the Queen of the
   Night as an assistant birdcatcher.  I supply birds in exchange for
   food and drink.  The Queen of Night? says Tamino didn't I read about
   her in my dad's Financial Times? By the way are you a human being or
   a bird? A human says Papgeno also I'm very strong.  Hey, is that
   serpent dead? Yes, says Tamino.  In that case I killed it says
   Papageno."

 From musical synopsis:

   "1.  Enter Tamino pursued by a serpent, singing a little wimpishly
   and passing out almost at once.

   2.  Enter the Three Ladies who promptly kill the serpent (fanfare)
   and go on to boast about it.

   3.  Now look out for a lovely strain in the lower strings as the
   Ladies focus on sexy Tamino and sing in turn What a dreamboat!  Then
   together:  Let's tell Madam about him.  Here the Three set their
   style, which doesn't change throughout.  it is close-ish harmony,
   sometimes the top Lady leading, sometimes one of the lower Ladies
   moving around snakily below.  they have their own tempo too, never
   very fast, never very slow."

 From commentary:

   "Of course you can make a case for anything to be a logical
   narrative, whether it be Finnegan's Wake, Jabberwocky or the book
   of Revelation, and there is no doubt that the Flute offers a pretty
   good challenge...Technically, putting on the Flute must have been
   pretty like the putting on of a pantomime which has to be adapted
   from rehearsal to rehearsal to meet new timings for scene changes,
   to cut gags that don't work, to rewrite a scene to cover a weak
   artist, to put in all the new ideas that are better than the old
   ideas, to reshape an act to meet the lighting cues--in all of this
   ad hoc activity the success of each scene becomes paramount and the
   mainframe story, unless the producer is a genius, will get a bit
   lost.  Neither Schikaneder nor Mozart was this kind of genius.
   Schikaneder was not a serious writer, rather something between P.T.
   Barnum and Donald Wolfit, Mozart, though certainly a musical and
   probably a mathematical genius too, was not a literary man and
   certainly no Masonic John Bunyan.  To think that these two, whilst
   working against the clock and trying to cope with all the problems
   of composition and production, could have evolved some great
   philosophical masterpiece, is just potty."

And you should see what he does with the Ring...

Best,

Peter Goldstein
Juniata College
Huntingdon, PA

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