One of opera’s most beloved works receives its first new Met staging in 19 years—a daring vision by renowned English director Simon McBurney that The Wall Street Journal declared “the best production I’ve ever witnessed of Mozart’s opera.” Nathalie Stutzmann conducts the Met Orchestra, with the pit raised to make the musicians visible to the audience and allow interaction with the cast. In his Met-debut staging, McBurney lets loose a volley of theatrical flourishes, incorporating projections, sound effects, and acrobatics to match the spectacle and drama of Mozart’s fable. The brilliant cast includes soprano Erin Morley as Pamina, tenor Lawrence Brownlee as Tamino, baritone Thomas Oliemans in his Met debut as Papageno, soprano Kathryn Lewek as the Queen of the Night, and bass Stephen Milling as Sarastro.
World premiere: Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden, Vienna, 1791. Die Zauberflöte—a sublime fairy tale that moves freely between earthy comedy and noble mysticism—was written for a theater located just outside Vienna with the clear intention of appealing to audiences from all walks of life. The story is told in a singspiel (“song-play”) format characterized by separate musical numbers connected by dialogue and stage activity, an excellent structure for navigating the diverse moods, ranging from solemn to lighthearted, of the story and score. The composer and the librettist were both Freemasons—the fraternal order whose membership is held together by shared moral and metaphysical ideals—and Masonic imagery is used throughout the work. The story, however, is as universal as any fairy tale.
The libretto specifies Egypt as the location of the action. Egypt was traditionally regarded as the legendary birthplace of the Masonic fraternity, whose symbols and rituals populate this opera. Some productions include Egyptian motifs as an exotic nod to this idea, but many more opt for a more generalized mythic ambience to convey the otherworldliness that the score and overall tone of the work call for.
Nathalie Stutzmann, Erin Morley, Kathryn Lewek, Lawrence Brownlee, Brenton Ryan, Thomas Oliemans, Alan Held, Stephen Milling