BOSTON (SEP. 16, 2013)—Boston Lyric Opera begins its 37th season, featuring all new productions, with the world premiere of a new English language adaptation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s operatic masterpiece, The Magic Flute, reimagined in ancient Mayan Mexico, set in the ruins of the mystical Yucatan.
“Director Leon Major and designer John Conklin have created an extraordinary new take on Mozart’s final opera, one that we hope will speak to all audiences because it’s relevant not only to the universal human experience, but to our youth,” said Esther Nelson, BLO’s General & Artistic Director. “We’ve assembled a cast and creative team with national and international credentials, all with local roots, to celebrate Boston’s unique artistic and educational riches, and we’re proud to premiere this poignant reimagination of a beloved classic for a 21stcentury audience.”
“The challenge of retelling Mozart’s Magic Flute for today’s audience is to find the story’s context in contemporary society,” said Director Leon Major. “Over two hundred years have passed since the Age of Enlightenment, a period of reason, questioning and social discourse that has given way to unchallenged acceptance, iPhone isolation and selfishness, our own Age of Entitlement. The definitions of morality have changed, laws have changed, only tyranny remains the same. Our production vividly explores those contemporary themes within the spirit of the original telling.”
BLO Music Director David Angus conducts the Boston Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus for the season’s opening production, performing Mozart’s score in its original form, “faithfully and carefully preserving the perfect integrity of the composer’s musical genius, without changing a note,” Angus said.BLO’s The Magic Flute presents a new interpretation of the original story by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emanuel Schikaneder, sung in English with projected English text. Four contemporary university students explore the mystical Mayan ruins where one experiences a venomous snake bite, drawing him and his companions into a hallucinatory cosmic world where an epic battle between day and night is being waged. This heroic struggle compels our protagonists to confront their own conflicts and desires, and by uniting through the power and understanding of music, they discover that strength and harmony lies within us all.
“Many years ago my family and I journeyed to the Yucatan to see the ruins of Chichen Itza and Uxmal, and all of us had identical reactions: we were overwhelmed by the size, astonished at the beautiful complexity, shuddered at the eeriness and mystery,” said Director Leon Major. “That visit to the Mayan world left an indelible impression, and I turned to that world to help us tell the story of four young contemporary university students amidst the ruins of ancient civilization, each of them on a quest foridentity and independence.”
Staged in a labyrinth of an ancient Mayan temple, the set design features rich colors of turquoise, gold and silver, and is replete with Mayan art and architecture, including colossal pyramids, golden masks, onyx vessels and plumed serpents of jasper and coral.
“Mozart and Schikaneder set their 18th century Flute in Egypt—a land of hidden secrets, ancient truths, pyramids and temples, vast and empty landscapes. Their setting was definitely and deliberately not a Western or European civilization, a place where a renewed journey of self discovery could be initiated,” said John Conklin, BLO Artistic Advisor and scenic designer for The Magic Flute. “Our production is set in Mayan civilization which, like Egypt, is a deeply inspiring backdrop, rich in iconography, history, objects and architecture that remain boldly beautiful and tantalizingly mysterious to our contemporary sensibilities.”
The production’s cast—all with Boston roots—includes tenor Zach Borichevsky, who recently won thirdprize at Placido Domingo’s Operalia festival in Verona, as Tamino; soprano Deborah Selig as Pamina, inher BLO debut; baritone Andrew Garland as Papageno; soprano Chelsea Basler in her BLO debut as Pagagena; BLO emerging artist alumni Neal Ferreira as Monostatos, David Cushing as Sarastro and soprano Meredith Hansen as the First Lady; and New England Conservatory’s So Young Park as The Queen of the Night, also making her BLO debut. In addition, Thomas Potts, Timothy O’Brien and Andrew Peruzzi of the St. Paul Choir School in Cambridge make their BLO debuts as the First, Second and Third Boys.
Since its September 30, 1791 premiere at the Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna, The Magic Flute has become one of the most popular—and now, familiar—pieces in the operatic repertory, having been set in Alaska, outer space, and the trenches of World War I. The opera has served as the inspiration for numerous plays, novels, poetry and films and has found itself adapted, revised and parodied over the centuries, making its way into the depths of pop culture.
Those unfamiliar with The Magic Flute are often surprised how much they actually recognize from the opera. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly about the U.S. premiere of his Magic Flute film adaptation, the celebrated auteur Kenneth Branagh said it best: “I came to [direct this] not really knowing much about opera. I played a recording of The Magic Flute, and thought, ‘I know these tunes.’ I’m very familiar with these in the same way as one is surprised, as I am still surprised, when I go and see a Shakespeare play.”
Boston Lyric Opera’s world premiere production of The Magic Flute opens with a black-tie Gala on October 4 at 8:00 p.m., and continues with performances on Sunday, October 6, at 3:00 p.m.; Wednesday, October 9, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, October 13, at 3:00 p.m. Performances are held at the Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre located at 265 Tremont Street in Boston. For tickets or more information, please visit blo.org or call (617) 542-6772.