Are High-Tech Magic Flutes More Magical?

An excess of video sometimes seems like an intrusion into the traditional glories of great stagecraft – a little like performance-enhancing drugs for athletes. It’s definitely helpful in challenging Wagner stagings, like the Met’s 2013 Parsifal. And it’s easy to understand why directors tasked to freshen up a staple like Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte are exploring its potential.

The San Francisco Opera/Washington National Opera/Opera Carolina/Opera Omaha/Lyric Opera of Kansas City (whew!) production, staged by artist Jun Kaneko, is one very colorful example. In Kaneko’s design the costumes and sets are synched as tightly as, well, your phone and your email.

Kaneko talks about his approach in this video.

The below version now on at Komische Oper Berlin was produced by a London-based performance company called 1927, known for its creative blending of live and animated performances, in collaboration with the Berlin company’s artistic director, Barrie Kosky.

South African artist William Kentridge staged a recent production for La Scala using animations in his signature style. Despite the stagecraft, reviewers were underwhelmed. It seems to be the only of the recent video-rich productions actually available on video. You can get the DVD from Amazon.

Puppets look so, well, 2006 in Julie Taymor’s imaginative, now-familiar production for The Met. There’s a performance captured on DVD, sung in English.

There’s almost always a Magic Flute coming to an opera house somewhere in the world, many beautifully staged without the aid of any computers at all. Here’s a calendar from Bachtrack.com of some upcoming live performances of  the work in North America and Europe.
See more video choices on Amazon.