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'When I was casting this production,' Kleeblatt relates, 'I wanted to contrast my powerful Queen of the Night with a girlish and graceful Pamina, to illustrate the gap that exists between mother and daughter. This is why I chose Saskia. As a trained ballet dancer, she moves incredibly well and her fragile kind of beauty and the lyric quality of her soprano play very well into the forlorn elements of her character, drawing the audience into the tragedy of her situation.'

Kleeblatt is a charming Bavarian with a fine talent for putting together an opera production and choosing a fitting cast. He also has an interest in linguistics, which is something very much needed for this challenging production. 'Our Papageno is not Bavarian, so he had to learn the dialect from scratch,' Kleeblatt explains. 'I taught it to him, having grown up in rural Bavaria. It was a big job where we sat down for many hours, studying phonetics and the like.'

Kleeblatt initially studied music with a view to becoming a schoolteacher when he discovered his love for conducting and putting on opera productions, a passion that he can now live out to the fullest in his capacity as director of the Bavarian Country Theatre Opera House. Nicely enough, he also has an ear for a good cello.

'I put my orchestras together for each production, choosing some of the finest musicians from other orchestras,' Kleeblatt relates. 'So as first cello, I have been able to get Philipp von Morgen who brings a very fine instrument to the stage.'

Indeed, so he does. 'My cello is Flemish, from around 1780, by Ambroise de Comble. I think it has a wonderful sound that is quite comparable to the much more expensive Italian cellos from that time. I have spent quite a lot of time experimenting with the type of bridge to put on there and now I use a combination of a Belgian and German bridge type,' von Morgen, who studied cello with Heinrich Schiff, explains.

For him, it is a great honour to be playing The Magic Flute since it not only happens to be one of his favorite operas but he is also a hobby music researcher of Mozart whenever his busy schedule as a concert cellist leaves him the time.

'I am quite an expert on The Magic Flute, actually, because I consider it to be Mozart's masterpiece. So whenever I can, I read up on it: any kind of scholarly works I can get my hands on, really. You just have to love this opera, don't you? To me, it is a kind of "lifetime achievement"' work, the work of someone who realizes that his life is not going to last much longer and who wants to leave one final grand statement. It is a comical opera on the surface but it has so many grave undertones. Firstly, there is all the depiction of the initiation rites of the Freemasons. Then there is the spiritual element, of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night, of Good and Evil, of the Sun and Moon symbols. Then there is the emotional level of love and deep feelings, represented by Pamina and Tamino. Interesting to note here also that "'Tao"' means "'God"' in Chinese, and Tamino is "'Little God"'. So here we also find Mozart's assertion that God is love and he does not think of God as vengeful but as benign. And then there is the purely sensual level, sex and eating and drinking, represented by Papageno and Papagena. To me, the bottom line of this opera is what is also shown in the principle of the Ying and the Yang: that life is full of opposites, there is a balance of Ying and Yang, and you cannot have everything at once.'

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Copyright © 14 December 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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