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Arts & Entertainment Presented by Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts


Gerald Carpenter: ‘Magic Flute,’ Baroque Concert Promise Charming Weekend at Music Academy

The Queen of the Night’s entrance from an 1816 production of “The Magic Flute.”
The Queen of the Night’s entrance from an 1816 production of “The Magic Flute.” ()

By Gerald Carpenter, Noozhawk Contributing Writer |

The Music Academy of the West’s new production of Wolfgang Mozart's opera The Magic Flute/Die Zauberflöte, K. 620 — directed by David Paul, conducted by Warren Jones, with sets by Charlie Corcoran and starring the cream of this festival's Vocal Fellows, already the cream of American voice students — will take the stage of the Granada Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The opera — really a singspiel ("sing-speak"), which involves both spoken dialogue and lots of singing — will be sung in German and spoken in English, with the vocal passages translated in supertitles.

Tickets are $120 for a box seat, or $58, $38 and $15.

Between performances of the opera — specifically, at 8 p.m. Saturday in First Presbyterian Church at 21 E, Constance Ave. — members of the Academy Festival Orchestra, led by the genial Baroque specialist Nicholas McGegan, will play an all-18th-century concert with a program that includes the Suite from Jean-Philippe Rameau's opera Platée or Junon jalouse (1745); Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto in A-Major for Violin, Three Echo Violins and Orchestra, RV 552; Vivaldi's Concerto for Violin, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Bassoons, and Continuo; and Franz-Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 100 in G-Major, Hoboken I/100, known as the "Military."

Tickets to this concert are $45.

I have attended several performances of The Magic Flute and listened my way, sometimes with the libretto in hand, through many recordings of it, but I still would not attempt to recapitulate the plot, elucidate its thematic complexities or sort out its fantastic dramatis personae.

Something with the Enlightenment and/or Freemasonry seems to suggest we'd all be better off ruled by an enlightened despot — they were all the rage at the time — and involves the striving and contesting of a Magus, the Queen of the Night, two pairs of lovers, three boys, three ladies and a bird-catcher who dresses and behaves like Little Richard. (Papageno, the bird-catcher, has the most popular music number in the opera, "Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja...," and is also the only character who plays a musical instrument on stage, so he may be the composer's ironic self-portrait.)

In any case, as with all operas, the coherence of the story is totally superfluous to the success of the production. We don't follow the plot, we follow the music, and since the music is by Mozart, we don't have a speck of trouble keeping our attention on the stage.

Oh sure, there is stuff that only Masons or philosophes or, to quote Mozart, "connoisseurs can appreciate, but I have seen to it that those less knowledgeable must also be pleased without knowing why." Music is no more a philosophic language than a political, narrative or religious one. Indeed, we only call it a "language" for want of a better term.

As our great poet Wallace Stevens wrote way back in the 20th century, "Music is feeling," and Mozart can apparently get us to feel anything he wants us to feel. We will also have the inestimable boon, in this production of the music direction by Jones, whose gifts for creating the perfect environment for optimum vocal performance are unsurpassed.

The same lack of intellectual challenge enhances our enjoyment of the Baroque music that Maestro McGegan will conduct. There is nothing superficial about it, however, and to characterize it as such is to completely miss the point of music in general.

Tickets to either of the above events can be purchased by phone at 805.969.8787 or online by clicking here. Tickets to The Magic Flute are also available from the Granada box office at 805.899.2222.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected].

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