Lincoln Center kicks off its yearly Mostly Mozart Festival with the July 17 premiere of the Komische Oper Berlin production of The Magic Flute. It's one of Mozart's most popular and accessible operas—Tony winner Julie Taymor's abridged, puppetry-laden production continues to play in rep at the Metropolitan Opera fifteen years later, often to audiences of families as well as seasoned opera goers. However, chances are this production of The Magic Flute is unlike any you've ever seen.
The production makes its New York premiere after originally premiering at the Komische Oper Berlin in 2012 under the co-direction of artistic director Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade of British performing group 1927, marking the first time a Kosky production will be seen in New York City.
For this production, Kosky turned to 1927, co-founded by Andrade and animator/illustrator Paul Barritt as a means of merging animation with live performance. Together they were able to bring Kosky's vision for the opera, inspired by 1920s silent films, Weimar cabaret, and dark whimsical fairy tales, to life in a kaleidoscopic spectacle.
The production features Barritt's animations projected on a gigantic onstage screen, complete with platforms and other set elements; the Komische Oper Berlin cast interacts with these animations to create a dazzling blend of expressionist animation and live, operatic performance.
Check out the trailer above to see this collaboration in action in one of the opera's scenes, and scroll down for a look at a few key moments with commentary by Barritt, who divulges some of the context and inspirations behind his animations.
"This is the opening scene in which Tamino is being chased by a dragon. We wanted to make this a really big opening, with him running like mad through the woods, so we gave him animated legs to give a silent comedy feel to the running. The dragon then goes on to swallow him!"
"This is when we first meet Pamina. She is being hounded by Monastatos and his hounds. We really wanted to make a good strong diagonal design for this opening image. The music is really exciting and Pamina is kicking away at those dogs as she sings. It’s actually quite scary for the soprano to be up that high on the screen, so there’s usually a genuine level anxiety in the voice!"
"This is the final Queen of the Night aria. We wanted to make the Queen into something quite terrifying so went for making her a giant skeleton spider. In the scene prior to this clip, she’s running down a corridor singing that mad coloratura. As an arachnophobic, I think I really fed off my own fears when making this scene and, to this day, it still creeps me out a little!"
"This is after Papageno finally gets it on with Papagena . . . and they have an awful lot of children together!! After his long search for love, Papageno is finding family life to be a little more hectic than he’d imagined!"
"One of my favorite episodes in the opera in which Pamina is called away from a suicidal moment by the three boys. We did the boys as butterflies and they appear in various different butterfly related guises throughout. In this final scene, they have actually become full little butterflies and Pamina herself has grown wings. They fly up into the sky with a cloud of little butterflies following. This is the type of thing you can only really do with animation, its a moment that really comes together nicely!"
"This is what became known as the 'clock trio.' It is where Pamina and Tamino are forced to part by Sarastro. It’s a scene I really never thought would work, but Suzanne was persistent about the big pendulum and clock. Lo and behold she was right and I was wrong and it became a great scene. I really enjoy building machines and mechanisms and so it was a cool thing to make. "
The Magic Flute plays the Mostly Mozart Festival July 17–20. For tickets and more information, visit LincolnCenter.org.