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Working Magic on Mozart!

Working Magic on Mozart!

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Magical Mozart: The Magic Flute's director, Stanley M. Garner, with animal "friends" designed by Gerald Scarfe. This magical production of Mozart's quirky and irresistible fairy-tale opera, presented by The NBR New Zealand Opera in association with Los Angeles Opera, looks set to weave its spell over audiences in Wellington and Auckland during June-July. Photo credit: Neil Mackenzie

Issued by the Nbr New Zealand Opera

Media Release

29 May 2006

Working Magic on Mozart!

A handsome prince. A beautiful princess. An evil queen. A feathered bird-catcher. An ark of enchanting and exotic hybrid animals. Just some of the magic that awaits opera audiences when the NZI Winter Season of The Magic Flute, presented by The NBR New Zealand Opera in association with Los Angeles Opera, comes to Wellington and Auckland in June-July. Production designer and internationally acclaimed cartoonist, Gerald Scarfe, and LA Opera director, Stanley M. Garner, open up an operatic wonderland, taking audiences on a journey bursting with imaginative design, vivid colour and glorious music.

Regarded as Mozart's most quirky and irresistible opera, The Magic Flute continues to delight both seasoned and first-timer opera audiences, including children, thanks to a fantastical, multi-layered tale told through charming characters and familiar, accessible music. At its simplest, The Magic Flute is a fairy-story about a prince who embarks on journey in which he must overcome trials and obstacles, to win his princess. On a deeper level, it is about the inner search for truth and love.

Gerald Scarfe, this production's designer, has master-minded a world where fantasy takes flight on the wings of Mozart's musical brilliance, creating playful but sophisticated designs that are clever, stylish, flamboyant and eye-catching.

The set designs position the opera in a mystical faux Egypt. A towering pyramid dominates the stage, changing as the story progresses into a mountain, a crypt and a temple where the hero prince, Tamino, enacts his trials by fire, water and silence. However, it is in the costumes that Scarfe's mastery as a world-renowned caricature illustrator is fully realised.

"The most fun of all to design were the animals that Tamino enchants out of the forest with his magic flute," explains Scarfe. "Rather than an obvious lineup I made these half one animal and half another; a Crocoguin - half crocodile, half penguin; a Tigoon - half tiger, half baboon; a Giraffestritch, a Turcon and a Pelipine. New and colourful breeds all 'genetically engineered' for a world where flutes have magical powers!"

Other characters also underwent Scarfe's creative treatment. The character Monostatos, for example, has been transformed from a Moor into a "Teletubbies meets the Incredible Hulk" like creature, and the 18th-century racial references have been adjusted to fit our era.

The heroic couple, Tamino and Pamina are groomed as doll lookalikes - somehow believable but clearly inhabiting an imaginary world. The humorous and lovable bird-catcher Papageno's feathery appearance could have popped out of a box of Crayola crayons! For the Queen of the Night and her three Ladies-in-Waiting, Scarfe has designed stunning black and purple dresses which embody the swirling, swooping pen lines of his drawings, and Sarastro's palace priests have elaborate headdresses - a la Egypt - and brilliant golden robes.

Director, Stanley M. Garner says Scarfe's designs successfully work with the opera's original sentiments, and care has been taken never to allow the fantastic to swallow up Mozart.

"What I love most about it is the journey that the characters take. they find inside themselves what is important to them, and they triumph in the end. They discover that things are not always what they seem to be; the people they think are the enemy turn out to be friends. Because of that, WE go on a journey as an audience; we have our own journey while the main characters have theirs. The magic and enchantment of the entire opera is beautifully realised musically and visually."


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