Die Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen
April 15, 2002
Last Friday I attended a performance of Die Zauberflöte at the Los Angeles Opera. The production left much to be desired. Apparently Los Angeles Opera has the opera confused with something else.
Mozart's last opera is fraught with multiple meanings, but Los Angeles Opera strove to be appealing to the lowest common denominator, to people who don't actually like opera or theatre or classical music. The sets and costumes were mostly absurd, something out of the circus, or Disneyland, or even a science fiction movie. The libretto was not translated particularly well for the supertitles that I tried to ignore. The choreography was horrid, for example, the Queen of the Night wore heels so high that she staggered around on stage like a mechanical bird in Act II. There also seemed to be technical problems with the background.
The audience did not take the performance seriously, there was much chatter, cooing whenever something particularly cute was on stage, laughter and applause at inappropriate moments. The person next to me fell asleep at least once, and I overheard other people talking about how they nodded off as I roamed around after the performance. It was pathetic, since the performance was a mere 3 hours long, with a 20 minute intermission in-between acts. Considering how entertaining the performance was trying to be, and how glorious the music was, I can't really sympathize with people who were so unengaged as to fall asleep.
I'm glad, in a way, that someone is worried about making people like the opera. It just seemed that they were trying very hard, with something that is already very appealing. Though I am glad that this performance could delight people, it was reported that this production got rave reviews from the Los Angeles Times. I can see how it would be good for someone who had never seen an opera before, or for children. Too inaccessible is bad as well, avante garde experiments with staging and such can be much worse than going for a wide audience.
Anyway, truth be told, I was very happy to go to an opera, especially a Mozart one. The music was, of course, delightfully pretty. The singing was all fairly even. Sumi Jo sang the part of the Queen of the Night to great effect, everyone knows the part is very difficult, so she got quite the applause. It was deserved though, her voice seems an impossibility, it is so beautiful and that part showed it to its best advantage. The Korean Americans were out in droves to see her, undoubtedly it brought out some people who wouldn't necessarily go to an opera normally.
Rodney Gilfry's Papageno was indeed lovable, his German was particularly good and his baritone was nice. Andrea Rost made a sweet Pamina, her voice got a bit shrill on occasion, but was mostly just lovely. I found Reinhard Hagen (Sarastro) a bit quiet in his lower range. The three spirits were sung by youths from the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, and the three had voices like angels.