Mozart’s “Magic Flute” stimulates mind and body

By By Christie Franke

By Christie Franke

When Mozart wrote his opera “The Magic Flute,” neither he nor anyone else knew that it would be his final work. The singspiel — a thoroughly German type of production that mixed operatic singing with the spoken word — premiered in Vienna on Sept. 30, 1791, to great success — and no doubt lifted the spirits of poor Mozart, which had been lowered by repeated illness.

“The Magic Flute” begins with a prince being chased by a monster and ends with the triumph of day over night. Involved in the adventure are a kidnapped princess, a comic bird catcher and three boys who act as guides, among many other colorful characters. But “The Magic Flute” is a love story more than anything else.

We open with the young and sexy Prince Tamino, who is trying, unsuccessfully, to run away from a monster that he has managed to piss off. He eventually passes out — like all good princes do at one point or another — and is rescued by the Three Ladies, handmaids of the Queen of the Night. They kill the monster and proceed to stand over Tamino, arguing over who gets to seduce him — like all good witches do at one point or another. Eventually they decide it would be best if they left him alone — less bloodshed that way.

Enter Papageno, who tells Tamino that he rescued him from the monster. Besides being an obvious lie, Papageno’s statement is an affront to the Ladies, who reappear and lock his mouth shut — which doesn’t last long.

Long story short, Tamino is given an assignment to rescue Princess Pamina from Sarastro, and once he sees her picture, he falls madly in love with her — as all good princes do at one point or another.

Meanwhile, Pamina is harassed by a villainous tenor, Sarastro turns out to be the good guy and Tamino has to endure three tests to prove himself worthy of Pamina. Then, the Queen of the Night arrives and tells Pamina, her daughter, to kill Sarastro in what is arguably the most famous — or infamous — aria in the operatic repertoire (she really nails those high notes, hitting the high F6, which is rare in opera and typically leaves audiences slightly stunned). However, Pamina doesn’t kill Sarastro. Instead, she wins prince Tamino and the Day, represented by Sarastro, triumphs over the Night. Papageno, whose sole ambition is to get married, meets Papagena. The pair sing their famous duet about having lots of little Papagenos and Papagenas and then live happily ever after.

It’s nothing if not subtle.

And lest the title be nonsensical, let it be known that the Queen of the Night gives Tamino a magic flute to help him in his mission to rescue Pamina. Ironically it works against her, helping the lovers through their different tests.

“The Magic Flute” is a beloved opera, performed often, and because it is pure fantasy, it can be staged any way possible. Never underestimate the ability of directors to bend plotlines to their will. “The Magic Flute” could take place on Mars, under the sea or, of course, in concert halls.

The U’s Lyric Opera Ensemble is putting on two performances of “The Magic Flute” at the Thompson Chamber Music Hall, located inside Gardner Hall — that’s two performances, with two different casts, for two nights of music. One of the two major productions that the Lyric Opera Ensemble will put on this semester, the students have been working extremely hard, and, doubtless, that work will pay off.

As one of the two major productions that the Lyric Opera Ensemble will put on this semester, the students have been working extremely hard on “The Magic Flute” since their auditions in December. Rehearsals started the first week of the semester, when the cast came together after having had Winter Break to study their roles. Mozart’s music is demanding, for all its apparent simplicity, but language isn’t an issue here.

“Because we are performing the opera in English, everyone will be able to understand and be entertained,” said Emily Burton, who plays the Third Lady. “I have had so much fun being part of the rehearsal process and I look forward to performing it this coming weekend.”

Also, because of limitations in budget, “The Magic Flute” is a smaller production with a rough set from the opera workshop and simple costumes. “Everything we are wearing or using is owned by the cast or is borrowed. It is staged though, so I wouldn’t consider it a concert setting,” said Emily Burton. Regardless, it will definitely be exciting to see what the Ensemble does with the material.

Tickets are available the nights of the performance and are $10 for everyone, students included (alas). Performances are on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets go on sale an hour before the start of the performance. For more information call the School of Music at 801-581-6762 or visit the events page at

Somewhere, Mozart is rubbing his hands together and thinking, “Damn, I’m good.”

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