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Mozart’s final opera, The Magic Flute has its origins in the Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden, a Viennese cabaret managed by his friend, Emanuel Schikaneder. It was a popular hit with the masses, which makes the opera a perfect fit for our own era’s most popular medium, cinema.
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“We looked at a lot of Buster Keaton as Papageno,” director Suzanne Andrade told The Hollywood Reporter about L.A. Opera’s new production of The Magic Flute running from Nov. 23 to Dec. 15. “We watched Pandora’s Box and a lot of Louise Brooks’ films for Pamina. We thought she needs to have a classic black bob, classic 1920’s slightly tomboyish kind of film star, but not too girly.” Other influences include The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, and the early animation of Max Fleischer.
In the new production, singers come and go through rotating panels on a great white wall on which animated characters and scenery are projected. Andrade and animator Paul Barritt had never done an opera before when their London based avant-garde theatre company, 1927, was handpicked by Komische Oper Berlin director Barrie Kosky. He had seen their cabaret show, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, a production employing many of the silent-era techniques opera fans will enjoy this weekend, and decided they would be perfect for The Magic Flute.
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This arresting new production, conducted by James Conlon, co-directed by Andrade and Kosky, with animation by Barritt, comes to Los Angeles following its world premiere as part of Komische Oper Berlin’s 2012-2013 season. On stage, it’s a unique operatic experience, with Papageno and Pamina bounding over rooftops and fending off the daggers of a spidery Queen of the Night. When conductor Conlon saw a clip on YouTube, he and L.A. Opera chief, Christopher Koelsch caught the next flight to Berlin and began the process of bringing the production home with them.
“It’s particularly good for us here in Los Angeles because silent movies, Los Angeles gave this to the world,” Conlon said, calling the two-hour, 40-minute production, “a delightful idea, magnificently executed.”
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