Marja-Leena Rathje
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the magic flute


Oh my, what a wonderful evening! We splurged on a special night out at the opera and were thoroughly enthralled by the wonderful new production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, in a unique and fascinating collaboration with First Nations artists.

Vancouver Opera's new production of Mozart's beguiling opera is set on the rocky shores and in the looming forests of the Pacific coast. There, the characters encounter many of the human figures, animals and supernatural creatures of Coast Salish mythology, in a visually splendid design conceived in collaboration with a team of First Nations artists. The Magic Flute will be an exciting exploration of the intersection of two rich cultures - the musical and theatrical traditions of 18th century Europe, beautifully performed, and the ancient mythology of the indigenous people of the Canadian west coast, beautifully depicted.

We found the sets absolutely magical and powerful - I'm feeling very inspired and high and unable to go to sleep yet! The adaptation and the costumes were marvellous and the singing was very good, though not always with the power I like, but perhaps that was partly the acoustics of the theatre. We found it interesting that just before the start of the opera, Leonard George (if we caught the name right, the son of the famous late Chief Dan George), spoke a few words of gratitude for this collaboration and then chanted and played the tribal drum for a few minutes - a moving touch! It was an almost full house, even on a Tuesday night, so it's been received very well. We were saying on the way home that this is the kind of artistic production that we should be presenting at our Olympics. My only beef is that the audience kept clapping after every song, not our usual experience.

To give you a little taste of it, you may enjoy viewing several audio and video clips from the production, on VO's site. For many weeks there was a great deal of advance media buzz about this innovative production, which certainly attracted our interest: in the CBC, in the Vancouver Sun (includes some backstage photos), and in the Straight. And then after opening night came this review.

Image above, from CBC: Etienne Dupuis is Papageno and Angela Welch is Papagena. Costumes reflect West Coast native traditions. (Tim Matheson/Vancouver Opera)"

Marja-Leena | 06/02/2007 | 4 comments
themes: Culture, Music


Sounds wonderful, even -- magical! So glad you had a special night out!

Beth, thank you. I know some folks don't like their favourite operas being adapted or "messed" with, and I've read how many of them are these days. I think this was the first such that we saw live and we were impressed. I read the handout literature the next day (never enough time in the theatre!), and yes it was Chief Leonard George who gave the "blessing" in the beginning. Actually he's a former chief, I believe, and he's very well known in the community for his work with his people, developing self-esteem through revival and understanding of their ancient culture. The First Nations committee advised on the correct protocol for the whole production, such as how their dancers were to perform.

That's a highly original approach and from the audience feedback it seems to have been brought off successfully - no wonder you were a bit high afterwards, Mozart does that anyway without any local concepts added in.

Must say I enjoyed listening to the Ariadne auf Naxos excerpts on there too; will you go? I have a big thing for Ricard Strauss.

Anna, I'm glad you enjoyed this. I've not seen Ariadne before and would love to see it! Hope it will happen.