[Has the Flute lost its Magic?]
Having sat through almost three hours of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, including a 20-minute interval (which is pretty normal for an evening at the opera), I couldn’t help wondering why I felt so utterly and truly disappointed as we filed out of the theatre. With a title like The Magic Flute which undoubtedly conjures fantasy and magical imagery, the treatment of this production does just the opposite.
I have taken all this time to reflect on the content of the show and what I struggled with was the relevance of the piece and its unacceptable themes of misogyny and racism which left a bitter taste in my mouth. Had the production managed to achieve a sense of Zauber aka magic and suspend my disbelief I might have been able to stomach the NZ Opera’s blatant disregard for tackling and updating these archaic points of view. Instead it made me feel highly uncomfortable throughout the evening and unhappy with the way in which women and native(s) were being portrayed. It seems that a majority of the audience, that frequents the likes of the opera, wouldn’t bat an eyelid or even perceive this content to be contentious in any way.
Going back to the lack of Zauber I knowingly risk contradicting myself as I comment on John Verryt’s set. Phenomenal and mind blowing are two words that don’t even begin to do it justice. However despite its mystical nature, everything else that we were subjected to on stage wasn’t! Having a fantastical set does not a magical night make on its own. There is no question that director Sara Brodie is amazingly skillful at teasing out the comedy throughout, however once again it is the lack of magic that makes it impossible for us to ignore the elephant(s) in the room.