|Revising history: now with more Mozart|
The whimsical staging of the overture is reminiscent of Blackadder, with armies like tin soldiers deploying over gently rolling plains, a regimental band that includes a string section, and airplanes that swoop and dive to orchestral cadences. Matters become more serious when Tamino faces near-capture in enemy trenches (it's the "angel of death," not a "giftige Schlange," which pursues him; the serpentine vapors over a stagnant pool and the malicious hissing of a thrown grenade are a nod to those who know the opera already.) In this extremity, the Three Ladies appear as in a mirage, nurses who are improbably buxom and clean and crisp. They were all well sung, but I was uneasy about the objectification of women. Still, it makes some sense if their appearance is considered as Tamino's fantasy. He awakes from his swoon in an alternate reality, with the grenade unexploded, so there's the possibility that all that ensues is a hallucination in the moment before death. ...Which is depressing. But in any case, the fairy tale is touching. Papageno, sung by Benjamin Jay Davis, appears as a Yank (which makes the running joke about him being unable to shut up even funnier) and a keeper of homing pigeons, who needs to be convinced that Tamino isn't suffering from shell shock. Pamina's (magic, floating, animated) portrait takes our hero into an Edwardian ball filmed as sumptuously as an escapist costume drama of interwar Hollywood. I loved this, both as eye candy and as a way of showing Tamino's immersion in an imagined future relationship with Pamina. The Queen arrives in predictably transgressive fashion, descending from a tank to make Tamino squirm with her proximity. Lyubov Petrova's voice struck me as unusually soft-grained and lyric for the Queen of the Night, but she dispatched the coloratura creditably. The quintet vision of universal brotherhood is poignantly accompanied by the Christmas truce, but this is short-lived, much to Papageno's disappointment ("I wish this hero hadn't met me!") I thought having the Three Boys looking as though they'd stepped off a sheet music cover might be setting up the dangers of imagining a national future as male and martial... but it wasn't. The boys' tendency to crop up everywhere was made a comic motif, which worked because of children's passion for observing, for sneaking, and for being where they aren't supposed to be.
|Monostatos: "But I thought we had male solidarity!"|
Sarastro: "You disgust me."* (*not actual dialogue)
|"A housewife or a maiden bring Papageno's way|
My hope of love is fading with every passing day."