The Magic Flute by Minnesota Opera, performing at the Ordway

Jeni Houser and Julien Behr in The Magic Flute. Photo by Dan Norman.

Jeni Houser and Julien Behr in The Magic Flute. Photo by Dan Norman.

Minnesota Opera‘s production (at the Ordway through Nov 22 – a short run; don’t mess about; getcher tickets) of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s glittering The Magic Flute boasts the most extensive and detailed use of projections I have ever seen.

Did I just make The Magic Flute sound dry and dull? It’s not; in fact it’s endlessly inventive. Ceaselessly delightful. The amazing visuals derive from (in no particular order): silent film (I noticed tributes to Buster Keaton – the character of Papageno – The Phantom Of The Opera, Nosferatu; perhaps you’ll see more); 70s cartoons (this is a compliment); computer games; silent film dialog cards (Mozart provides excellent b.g. accompaniment); shadow box puppetry.

And a powerful visual vibe all its own.

The production and the animations are credited to “1927,” a London based theater company specializing in a heady combination of animation and performance. The original production of The Magic Flute was created by Suzanne Andrade, with animations by Paul Barritt. For MN Opera, the production was directed (remounted?) by Tobias Ribitski. The conductor was Michael Christie.

The story? Well now, here you have me. Something about Tamino following Papageno (a bird-catcher – ??) into the lair of the evil (??) queen where he is tasked with rescuing the beautiful Pamina. To do so he must defeat Sarastro and his nasty henchperson Monostratos.

Who cares! The plot (libretto is by the Germanically named Emanuel Schikaneder) adds wonderful structure to the visuals and provides Wolfy with an excuse to compose unsurpassable music. If you’re an opera purist, The Magic Flute is definitely present. And if you’re just a regular theater-goer (like me) The Magic Flute contains many delights (too many to elaborate on here).

(BTW, the magic flute itself is a naked Tinkerbell-like presence who flutters about; in case you were wondering.)

The performers perform in front of a solid white wall. They seldom move. But the projections do – yikes-fire! – and as a result The Magic Flute swirls and thrills. They sing the tuneful and inventive Mozart music perfectly. I loved them, each and every one.

I’m a critic, so I suppose I should take a moment here to complain about Papageno (my heart won’t be in it, though). “Bergan (?) Baker” stepped in, apparently at the last moment, to sing the role. He is listed nowhere in the program. He was fine, but one couldn’t help but wonder how much better the credited singer would have been. But Baker was pretty good. So… Well, never mind.

See this show! It’s unique.

John Olive is a Minneapolis-based writer. His book Tell Me A Story In The Dark was recently published. Art Dog will be produced by Salt Lake Acting Co. His screenplay A Slaying Song Tonight has been optioned. For more info please visit www.johnolive.net.

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