While PJ and I were on our driving trip last week, we listened to “The Operas of Mozart” Part III, a CD course from The Teaching Company. This “course,” taught by Robert Greenberg, analyzed Mozart’s The Magic Flute. We had seen the OU School of Music’s partial production of The Magic Flute last year, so we were interested in learning what the opera is really about.
Since the School of Music’s production was abbreviated and presented only select scenes with a narrator filling in the blanks between, it was really difficult to get a handle on what was actually happening in this opera. Greenberg emphasizes the opera’s connections to eighteenth-century freemasonry. He also places the work in its historical context and within Mozart’s biography. And finally, he includes excerpts from a production of the opera, translating the German into English (for those of us whose German is a little rusty!).
As an eighteenth centuryist, I was really interested by the course’s discussion of freemasonry, a subject that I hadn’t ever paid any attention to previously. Many of the most prominent men of the period were freemasons, including Alexander Pope, David Garrick, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, William Hogarth, and Laurence Sterne. I’ll have to do more reading about masons and the Enlightenment when I get a chance.
Once we got back, I started cruising YouTube to see what clips of productions it had. I found several that I’d like to share. My favorite so far is of the Queen of the Night’s aria from Act Two, in which she commands her daughter to murder Sarastro, the Priest of the Sun. Here’s the clip:
I love this clip, which is from the 2003 Royal Opera production. As this clip shows, the sets, the costumes, even the staging are wonderful. I love it so much that I immediately ordered the DVD of the production and am waiting on pins and needles for it to arrive. Diana Damrau plays the Queen. She captures the Queen’s evil magnificence so well, but there are many other divas who have played the part to great acclaim:
Luciana Serra who has an undeniably beautiful voice:
Natalie Dessay, who seems a little skinny to be truly evil and therefore goes for deranged:
Elena Mosuc, who’s more of a scold than an evil queen:
The aria’s even been sung by a boy soprano, though with only limited success:
Although Luciana Serra’s voice is amazingly beautiful, Diana Damrau remains my favorite. I can’t wait to see the whole performance on DVD! (How did I become such an opera queen?!)