The Muggle Flute: “The Magic Flute” by Sir Thomas Allen (and Mozart, I Guess)

The Magic Flute, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s timeless opera as directed by Sir Thomas Allen, with the Scottish Opera, was the most horrible viewing experience I’ve had since I saw The Provok’d Wife five days ago. I experienced vivid pain as the blindly directed steampunk/H.G. Wells/Richard Burkhard ego-fest unfolded on the stage for an excruciating three hours. I don’t actually believe Sir Thomas Allen directed this show; none of these actors looked like they had acted a day in their lives, let alone interacting with one another. This is save for Richard Burkhard’s Papageno, who was so hammed up that I went until right now thinking that he had simply written the role for himself (it took a Wikipedia dive to discover that Papageno actually was a character in the original Flute, which was as surprising as it was disappointing). Obviously, the singing wasn’t the problem with this production — though there was some iffiness on the part of the Queen’s ha-HA-ha-HA-ha-ing. The acting was all just so damn insincere; the bass sorcerer even forgot several of his lines, noticeably. As for the direction, I truly have no idea what the hell was going on. The show started off strong with a vaudevillian presentation of the overture, and I was really excited to see this idea explored. But immediately, we were in some dystopian, futuristic, unclear world where there are animated robots and an audience member is a prince and I wish I could tell you more but I honestly cannot because I have no idea what most of the stuff happening on the stage was.


At interval, I seemed to be the only person as dissatisfied as everyone would become by the end of act two. I’m not quite sure why everyone was so fine with the “oh-he’s-asleep?-let’s-rape-him” ladies who occupied the second scene, nor with the “a-woman’s-power-is-rooted-in-her-husband” men who comprised the rest of the cast. There were no people of color on the stage, except for one of the angel boys; but the angel boys, on top of being barely audible, were as lifeless as is possible short of death. In act two, there was more rape, more mistake-making, and more indulgence in a narrative which we have seen literally thousands of times. How can I bring myself to care about a classic damsel-in-distress story when the promotional material for the show cannot even care? “A handsome prince, a damsel in distress, sorcerers, priests and a bumbling bird catcher – all are given life in Mozart’s sublime blend of lyrical love duets, folk-like ditties and the explosive coloratura of the Queen of the Night arias.” It knows it has nothing new to offer, but it also clearly explains that it’s not going to do anything to change that. The production is an exercise in exhaustion; for the elderly people in every single seat not occupied by representatives of Vanderbilt University, perhaps that was acceptable. But it enrages me that government spending is going to something as pointless and tired as this. And as confusing as this. And as unpleasant as this. And as bad as this. And etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.


I do not recommend you see The Magic Flute — that is, however, unless someone you never thought really liked you (since that time you did that really mean thing to them) has recommended it to you, in which case, absolutely see it. I’m sure that their revenge — I mean, the price of your ticket — will pay off well.