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Unfortunately, as intermission approached I still wasn't sure about the curtain. I did understand, however, why my friend's neighbor didn't like the performance. Maybe if she had mentioned that the magic flute was an incredibly large penis and the bells were a glockenspiel made up of pairs of silver testicles, her objections would have been clearer. These are things one just doesn't expect when one goes to a classical opera.
I didn't see anything random about the selection of these phallic symbols, nor the reference to Tamino as a bedwetter or the constant gyrating masturbations of Papageno. The Queen of the Night demonstrated her evilness in her first aria when she pulled off her hand to reveal a gory stump, took off her wig to show a bald head, and tore off a breast to expose a bloody mass. Sarastro was in a wheel chair, Monostatos in black face, and the chorus in straight jackets. Granted, the original fairy-tale plot, complete with its Masonic symbolism, is a bit convoluted, but these additional antics didn't seem to make the story any clearer. And quite frankly, all of the theatrics greatly detracted from the music itself.
The conservative-looking audience emitted some nervous laughter and some shocked gasps, but what was the director trying to say? And was I really interested in the ideas of someone who clearly wasn't in sync with the spirit of the work? Later I discovered that the director and composer of the new dialogue for this production, Hans Neuenfels, was also the creator of Berlin's Deutsche Oper production of Idomeneo that received so much press this past fall. Actually a revival from a few years ago, his addition of the decapitated heads of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and Poseiden resulted in the initial cancellation of several performances due to Muslim terrorist threats.
Copyright © 24 February 2007
Karen Haid, Las Vegas, USA