The Sublime Escapism of The Magic Flute



September 8, 2023

Stephen Lyons

A fairytale within a fairytale, the playful and stylized Canadian Opera Company production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute begins at a garden party in 1791…where a performance of The Magic Flute is being staged! It’s instant magical immersion for audiences, and the start of a wild journey of high drama and whimsical delight. By the second act, we’re no longer watching people watching the world of Tamino and Pamina; the stage is full-scale, and we’ve been fully and fantastically swept up in it. So…what is the “it” that we’re in? It’s an adventure! Armed with an enchanted instrument, and aided by his comic sidekick, the bird catcher Papageno, our hero Tamino rescues the kidnapped Princess Pamina, and the pair face trials, tribulations, and the wrath of Pamina’s mother, the vengeful Queen of the Night. But like any great fairytale—and this is among the greatest—light triumphs over darkness, and the young pair chart a path towards wisdom, truth, and love. Within this fantastical story, Mozart explores the emerging ideas of the Enlightenment period—an intellectual attitude that placed reason at the centre of human potential—evidenced in the names of the temples Tamino must enter: Wisdom, Reason, and Nature. The composer’s own fascination with the rituals of Freemasonry weighs into the work, too, influenced by both Mozart and librettist Emanuel Shikaneder’s membership in the same Masonic lodge. Premiering at the COC in 2011, this production of Flute was created by the team of Tony Award-winning Broadway director Diane Paulus with set and costume designer Myung Hee Cho. “We wanted to capture the fairy tale aspect,” Paulus said, “but also bring out the deeper meanings of enlightenment, ritual, Masonic architecture, and the structure and enigma that are hidden inside.” As part of their approach, Paulus created the play-within-a-play structure, acted out on a charming stage within the stage. Combined with the intentionally low-tech creature designs, the creative team offers audiences the experience of stumbling upon the scenes whimsically played out in a garden. The upcoming staging will be directed by Ashlie Corcoran, who first helmed a COC production of Flute in 2017, and conducted by Tania Miller, who’ll be making her VO debut. A perfect kick-off to the 2023-2024 Vancouver Opera season, with treasures for aficionados and escapists alike, the Canadian Opera Company’s production of The Magic Flute is both a “frothy, fun atmosphere” and a “buoyant, thoughtful reading of Mozart’s poignant score” (Toronto Star). This October, be transported to a storybook world of fantastical creatures, delightfully imaginative costumes, starry skies and garden mazes, and some of Mozart’s most sublime, soul-stirring music. Find the best seats now: