Saturday, February 13, 2021

DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE (Wiener Staatsoper)****


By Megan


Available until: Probably until around 6pm (GMT) on 14th February but that might not be how it works. There is another broadcast on 17th February which is available from 6pm.

Content warning: If this was a play I would be expected to warn about certain things so I probably should here too. It sounds like they’ve taken out the racism but a white character has their appearance altered so they look like a person of colour and there are two suicide attempts and lots of loud noises like bangs and thunder. There is also a bit with hunting which is sad.

Die Zauberflöte or The Magic Flute as it’s called in English is a really magical opera. It’s not just the flute that is magic. There are some magic bells too and lots of effects like flying which aren’t magic in the opera but they are magic for the people who are watching. Even when you can see they aren’t really flying, it is still exciting watching them go up to the ceiling.

Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier directed this production and I think it was really important to them to put lots of magic in this production. There are lots of really good flying effects which look really impressive. They also had firework effects and thunder. I think people who don’t like bangs wouldn’t enjoy that but it is all really clever and it looks beautiful. It is also really lovely because you don’t expect to see things like that in opera. It’s normal if you go to a firework display but it’s not something you see very often at the opera.

I think this is mostly a very light-hearted version of Die Zauberflöte . I really like Beate Vollack’s choreography. The dancing animals are so lovely and it is really funny when Monostatos and his friends start dancing. They also have real birds which Papageno catches at the beginning. They are really good and I think any singer who can sing and play the panpipes when they are being pecked by a bird is really clever and brave.

Adam Fischer is the conductor and his conducting is very light which goes along with the light-hearted production and then when the more dramatic music does come it seems even more dramatic because of the contrast with how it was before.

Tamino is sung by Benjamin Bruns who has also sang Don Ottavio and Tito in the Wiener Staatsoper broadcasts. He has a lovely smooth light tenor and he is so romantic with Pamina who is sung by Olga Bezsmertna. She plays Pamina as a really strong and brave woman who stands up to people and this works. It’s like all the time she is trying to get people to look at her and realise women are equal to men and she’s obviously right about that. All genders are equal to each other. Her voice suits her character, it is quite a powerful voice for Pamina but it is not too powerful and it is so beautiful.

Markus Werba is a really funny and likeable Papageno. His voice is quite heavy for Mozart but I do not think that matters because he can sing all the notes and he phrases it really well. He is good at physical comedy and verbal comedy but when the story gets sad, he can do that really well too. Annika Gerhards is a really nice Papagena. Her voice goes well with his and she is quite a physical performer just like him.

The Queen of the Night is the important character for a lot of people and Íride Martínez is really good and she got her top Fs. She is usually a really powerful character but in this production she seems quite vulnerable, like she really does miss Pamina and although she can do the angry bits when she needs to, it is really difficult for her to fight against Sarastro. Sarastro is Franz-Josef Selig and he is imposing but kind. His voice is really attractive and smooth.

But there is one part of the production which I am really uncomfortable with. Monostatos is a difficult character. He is written as a person of colour and nowadays if a role is written for a person of colour, then we don’t want to see the role given to a white actor. But Monostatos is a bit different. He is written in a negative way and he is nearly always played by a white singer and anything about the colour of his skin is removed. I don’t think this is really whitewashing, it’s more like they’re trying to wash out the racism and not have a person of colour viewed in a negative way and behaving in a really bad way.

In this production the role is played by Thomas Ebenstein and watching it, I really believed he was a person of colour. He is a brilliant Monostatos and he’s very funny. He really makes Monostatos seem more like a really silly man than a really evil one. There are still some horrible moments but it is hard to dislike someone who is quite sweet at other times. He has a really beautiful voice too. But then I googled him (because I wanted to find out what else he has done) and I found out he is not a person of colour. He was just made to look as though he was with make-up and a wig. He is a really brilliant Monostatos, the best I have ever seen but I am really uncomfortable with the way they changed his appearance. I don’t think it’s right so I have given this production four stars instead of five.

I really liked nearly all of this production a lot.

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