C-Chats: Chicago Opera Theater’s ‘Magic Flute’
The Magic Flute, the famous Mozart Opera, is a magical story of Prince Tamino on a mission to save the daughter of the Queen of the Night, the beautiful Pamina—and the Chicago Opera Theater has now updated it. The first major difference? The opera has been translated from the original German to English, but that's not the only change. The Magic Flute runs for three more nights—September 19, 21, and 23. Get your tickets now here. Chicago editor-in-chief Beth Fenner and Senior Editor Emmet Sullivan attended the opening night of the new Flute. Here are some notes and tips on the performance.
Emmet: Let's get right into this.
Beth: Okey doke.
Emmet: You and I were lucky to attend the premiere of Magic Flute this weekend at the Chicago Opera Theater.
Beth: Lucky is right. It was my first time at a performance of the Chicago Opera Theater, and it was better than I expected!
Emmet: Mine too! I've only been to the Harris once before, but I really like that space.
Beth: For me the highlights were the prince and the mother—truly amazing voices. The guy behind me yelled "Brava!" more than once.
Emmet: I never like people who do that, but I think both of those singers deserved the praise.
Beth: What did you think of the set?
Emmet: I liked it! There were a lot of vibrant colors in the set and the costumes—and the bright red hair on the three ladies—which was pretty stunning visually.
Beth: Agreed. My only quibble was with the outfit of the mother—a little too '80s prom dress for my taste.
Emmet: One thing people should know from the outset is this isn't a typical opera. First, it was all in English. I know you've seen the show before with other companies, so what did you think of the translation?
Beth: The translation was nicely done, and it really did help the story, in my opinion. It's been ten years since I saw The Magic Flute (in New York City, at the Metropolitan Opera), and I can honestly say I enjoyed this more. You?
Emmet: I caught myself following along on the prompter above the stage more than once, so I don't think I would have minded it not being in English. That said, it was great to easily understand the non-singing parts, especially with all the humor with the character Papageno.
Beth: He was hilarious. But in my opinion, the breakout star was the prince (Sean Panikkar). Never have I seen a more buff opera singer, btw. (stick around for the last act, when he removes his shirt).
Emmet: I think you're right about the breakout star. We knew that the mother would be great—she was the cover of the program after all. Sean was pleasantly surprising. Another thing I wanted to bring up, though, was the misogyny in the show. More than once the audience chuckled over the many women-just-seduce-men jokes. What did you make of that?
Beth: The chuckling to me was basically, "Oh, that Mozart, who lived in the dark ages when women weren't allowed any self-determination." Not enthusiasm for it.
Emmet: Right, I should be clear, it didn't seem like anyone was supporting the jokes. More just chuckles that such sentiments were so common.
Beth: That's basically what you get if you want to see opera, no? Until someone pens a great feminist opera, that is. If anyone knows of one, please share.
Emmet: Looking forward to seeing that. A few other tips for those who go to the remaining shows this week (and I would encourage people to check it out): bring your ID, and pre-order drinks for intermission. We were lucky to both have IDs on us after being carded at the bar, and I wouldn't want to wait in those lines during intermission.
Beth: Excellent point. The servers were oddly skeptical that we were drinking age, yet oddly trusting when it came to pouring our halftime (I mean intermission) drinks. Just sitting out on the side of the bar. It all worked out, so no complaints here. Also, any tips on making a fast getaway? The Harris Theater is mostly underground, so there can be a jam-up on the way out.
Emmet: Well, if you have tickets on the orchestra level, exiting through that door leads you onto Lower Randolph—which, let's be honest, can be a bit creepy at night, but luckily the entrance to the train station is right there, with escalators straight up to Michigan and Randolph.
Beth: Good point. One final tip: If you have a pal who went to the show already, ask him/her to save the flyer tucked into the playbill. It's good for $10 off another performance. Gotta run to a meeting. Till next time!
Emmet: Looking forward to it!
Photograph: Liz Lauren/Chicago Opera Theater