MARIA NOCKIN was at
San Diego Opera's 'The Magic Flute'
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) dates from 1791, a turbulent year in history when Europeans were still in the process of constructing a new society after the bloodbath of the French Revolution. The opera is rife with masonic symbols because the composer and possibly his librettist, Emanuel Schikaneder, were members of that group. One of the reasons that masonic lodges became popular in that era was that no distinction was made between members who were from the nobility and members who were commoners. Everyday life in 18th century Austria was quite different, and commoners had little voice in formulating any kind of public policy.
Daniel Borowski as Sarastro, surrounded by the San Diego Opera men's chorus in San Diego Opera's production of Mozart's 'The Magic Flute'. Photo © 2006 Ken Howard
Schikaneder had tried to join a masonic lodge in his home city of Regensburg, but was rejected because of his extra-marital affairs. He may well have been accepted later in Vienna, however, where his fame as an actor, singer and theater manager could have outweighed his peccadilloes.
Paul Armin Edelmann (Papageno) and Ute Selbig (Pamina) surrounded by the slave chorus in San Diego Opera's production of Mozart's 'The Magic Flute'. Photo © 2006 Ken Howard
The première of Die Zauberflöte was held in a suburban theater which catered to an unusually mixed crowd. Thus, the characters of Tamino and Pamina were intended to appeal to the upper class while Papageno and Papagena were expected to be appreciated by earthier members of society. The bird catcher, of course, was played by the librettist who saw to it that he had the major portion of the comedy. It is still true that singers of this role get all the laughs, especially when today's stage directors add their own jokes like the San Diego Opera 'bird flu' bit.
Copyright © 28 May 2006
Maria Nockin, Arizona USA