Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” Enchants at LA Opera

Bogdan Volkov as Tamino in LAO's 2019 "The Magic Flute." Corey Weaver.

Considered one of Mozart’s most popular operas written during the end of his short 35-year life, The Magic Flute is perhaps one of the most accessible, relatable, and even spiritual of his repertoire. Written in the singspiel form (both singing and spoken dialogue) the opera first premiered in Vienna in 1791 and boasts many recognizable arias including the opera seria coloratura, Der Holle Rache Kocht In Meinem Herzen (Hell’s Vengeance Boils in My Heart) sung by the The Queen of the Night in Act 2.

Bogdan Volkov and Zuzana Marková (center) as Tamino and Pamina, flanked by Steve Pence and Robert Stahley as the Two Armored Men in LA Opera’s 2019 production of “The Magic Flute.”

The Komische Oper Berlin version showing at L. A. Opera is stupendously magical, appropriate not only for the holiday season, but also Hollywood due to its silent-movie reminiscence. The dialogue has been switched to text on the screen, and together, Suzanne Andrade and animator, Paul Barritt give us a surreally beautiful, visually stunning tableau against which the allegorical fairy tale unfolds.

Erica Petrocelli (First Lady), Theo Hoffman (Papageno), Vivien Shotwell (Second Lady) and Taylor Raven (Third Lady) in LA Opera’s 2019 production of “The Magic Flute.”

After a brush with death involving a GOT-style serpent, our dashing hero Tamino (tenor, Bogdan Volkov) is saved by three handmaidens of the Night Queen (soprano, So Young Park, in this reviewed performance, Jeni Houser), and manipulated into rescuing her daughter, Pamina (soprano, Zuzana Marková) from the clutches of a supposedly evil sorcerer, Sarastro (bass, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo). Tamino is aided by the titular magic flute, which can tame any savage, three butterfly spirit guides, and even dancing bells who appear as buxom belles! And then, there’s his chatterbox sidekick, Papageno (baritone, Theo Hoffman) who adds dollops of humor with his opera buffa numbers, and an animated scene-stealing black cat. The adventure will pit them against Sarastro’s fiendish, Nosferatu-esque soldier, Monostatos (tenor, Frederick Ballentine), and impel them through several trials, each imparting valuable wisdom. Ultimately, love will triumph, and in the process, reveal that Sarastro is, in fact, an enlightened Masonic master (Mozart himself being a Freemason), and the Night Queen the quintessential villain.

The Magic Flute, packed with visual and thematic elements that elicit oohs-and-aahs throughout its two-hours and forty-minutes run time, is enjoyable by the whole family and a perfect introduction to opera for the young ones.

— G. Dhalla

The Magic Flute plays at LA Opera through December 15th. Tickets HERE.