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Countless dozens of Ph.D theses must be written about Mozart’s The Magic Flute and yet it is so lively with elements of fantasy and free-flying imagination that it is often the first opera to which children are taken. It has a plot of such complexity that it takes several viewings for all but the most studious opera buffs to sort out the characters and follow the ins and outs of the multilevel story. At the same time it has so much easily accessible charm and so many glorious Mozart tunes that even the novice will be captivated.There is a large cast of characters including the priest Sarastro (a very serious, proselytizing basso), the Queen of the Night (a mean, angry, scheming coloratura), and her daughter, the beautiful and courageous Pamina. There is the handsome hero, Tamino, on the quintessential road trip, and his cohort in misadventure, the bird seller, Papageno. Papageno ultimately finds his Papagena (who starts out disguised as a crone), Tamino ultimately wins Pamina, Sarastro presumably wins a passle of converts, and everyone goes home humming the catchy Mozart melodies. It is all presented in a plot complicated by a dragon, a threesome of warbling ladies in service to the Queen of the Night, another threesome of boy-angels, even a bully – Monostatos, guard for the Queen. It is lightened by such elements as locked lips, charmed animals, and, of course, a magic flute.Mozart wrote The Magic Flute in 1791, just after the French Revolution and just before he died. Haydn had introduced Mozart to Freemasonry, and the opera is full of the ideas (the autonomy of the individual, self-determination, appalling sexism), the ideals (power, wisdom, beauty), and the symbols (aprons, hammers, compasses, a pyramid with an …

…came inaudible as Holle dipped out of his range. Erika Miklosa has neither the range, nor the vocal skills, nor the temperament of the Queen of the Night; she might make a good Queen of High Tea. In short, a highly uneven musical evening, and one in which the music was never able to soar and beguile as The Magic Flute must.Komische Oper is the third tier company in Berlin, in budget as well as in ticket prices. This has the distinct advantage of making opera accessible to young people and there were plenty in the audience the other night, rarely seen, one would guess, at the other houses here and almost never in the US. But while young people may be wooed to opera with overdone productions, they are not likely to become devotees unless they are captured with beautifully sung music. Otherwise, it’s back to The Phantom Menace, where the scenery doesn’t get stuck.

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