‘Magic Flute’ sells out

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, more than 4,500 Yalies and New Haven residents flocked to the Shubert Theater for an opera about the triumph of love over greed, darkness and the devious Queen of the Night.

This weekend, the Yale Opera and the Yale School of Music presented Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (Die Zauberflöte), sung in German with English dialogue in front of a packed Shubert Theater. The three performances were all sold out, though some students won tickets from their residential college raffles as late as Saturday afternoon.

An international cast of students from the Yale Opera and the Yale School of Music were joined by the Yale Philharmonia and Yale undergraduate singers onstage.

“This performance was a wonderful opportunity for undergrads to participate in the production of a big opera,” said Lucy Fitz Gibbon ’10, who sang the part of one of three guiding spirits. “My sister and I have been listening to ‘The Magic Flute’ since childhood, and I’ve always dreamt of singing in it.”

“The Magic Flute,” a two-act opera, tells a romantic tale of two men, prince Tamino and bird-catcher Papageno, searching for true love while on a quest to rescue the Queen of the Night’s daughter, Pamina. In their efforts to free Pamina, the pair faces trials in the Temple of Ordeals, overseen by Sarastro, the Priest of the Sun.

The performance featured singing in German with English translations as well as spoken dialogue in English. This Singspiel operatic form uses the vernacular translation of dialogue of the city where the show is being performed. The translation used in this version reached out to modern viewers with references to the Macarena, “an artist formally known as Prince,” Iron Chef, Johnny Lee’s song “Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places” and iPhones.

“I suppose if I had my iPhone I could text the gods,” Papageno said when he and Tamino are trapped in the Temple of Ordeals.

Though the pop culture references were an obvious attempt to appeal to a present-day audience, the performance could have been more subtle, Matthew Shaffer ’10 said.

“The music, was, of course, delightful, and the singing was irreproachable, but I think they went a bit too far with the contemporary references,” Shaffer said. “Throwing some colloquial dialogue into a Singspiel can be humorous, but they overdid it.”

Eric Barry GRD ’10, who played Tamino at Saturday’s performance, said this cast performed a more mature version of the show.

“All the press ‘The Magic Flute’ gets is for kids, so I’m glad that we got to perform without so much slapstick and take a deeper look into characters,” Barry said.

The production borrowed costumes for the principal singers and Men’s Chorus from the New York City Opera and used a dynamically colorful set provided by the Yale School of Drama. Some of the more eclectically dressed characters sported tattered, feathered costumes — with Papageno in yellow and his counterpart Papagena in pink — while the spirits donned 18th-century schoolboy outfits.

Given the current economic climate, crew members who worked on the show said they were impressed with ticket sales. Meanwhile, the Connecticut Opera, which is based in Hartford, announced on Feb. 12 that it would shut down without filing bankruptcy and without refunding pre-sold tickets.

“We are thrilled and humbled to have such a turnout for an opera production at a time when our colleagues at opera companies across the country are having to cancel productions and in some cases even cease operations for economic reasons,” Grant Meachum, the managing director of the Yale Opera, said.

Overall, Shaffer said “The Magic Flute” fit the Valentine’s Day mood.

“It was tremendous fun, particularly for any young man who had a beautiful young lady by his side,” Shaffer said. “And it was by far the best Valentine’s Day date one could pull off for only $40.”

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