Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Peter Brook's "A Magic Flute"

Freely adapted by Peter Brook, Franck Krawczyk, and Marie-Hélène Estienne from Mozart's opera, "A Magic Flute" stripped away all superfluities of staging to focus on the singers' relationship to the music. The score was played expressively by Franck Krawczyk on solo piano at stage right. A cluster of upright canes served as forest, prison, and Masonic temple. It is interesting, however, that the simple staging drew attention to its own ingenuity. It did not help when the singers knocked down the canes. Throughout the evening at Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, a small part of my mind kept wondering when the next cane would fall. The two actors who played incidental parts in the action were an inelegant solution to the problem of scene change.

The singers were exposed by the lack of spectacle. Adrian Strooper who sang the heroic and lovesick Tamino on July 5, when I watched the production with TB, came through beautifully. So did his lover Pamina, sang by Jeanne Zaepffel, though less consistently. Malia Bendi-Merad, as Queen of the Night, was more than a head shorter than her daughter Pamina, and this height difference was physically unconvincing, though she sang well. Thomas Dolié, as Papageno the birdcatcher, was mildly funny. His sweet dove Papagena was sang indifferently by Dima Bawab. As Sarastro, the Masonic Master who brought the lovers together, Luc-Bertin-Hugault had a rich voice but with little variation in emotion. Raphaël Brémard was a cartoonish Monostatos, the would-be seducer of Pamina.

The first time I watched a full version of The Magic Flute. Now I know where the snatches from the film Amadeus come from in the opera. That when the Queen of the Night goes on her high F's she is commanding her daughter to commit the dastardly deed of assassinating Sarastro. That when Papagena shows her true beautiful self to Papageno, the man can only stutter the first syllables of her name, which are also the first syllables of his, pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa.

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