Unsuccessful box-office hit: in front of a wearing backdrop

The Hamburg State Opera opens the season with a new production of Mozart’s "Magic Flute" – and causes a boo storm.

A maelstrom that hasn’t gripped everyone: The Magic Flute Photo: Arno Declair

Its melodies are sing-along – and yet "The Magic Flute" is and remains enigmatic. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s last opera has now opened the new season at the Hamburg State Opera and caused a storm of booing right at the premiere. Jette Steckel’s production tries to activate the contradictions of the piece for a biographical station drama. In vain: despite the garish light show, the whole thing doesn’t ignite. The new production, on the other hand, is convincing above all musically.

Tamino is one of us and dies right at the beginning: heart attack in the first row of the audience! The emergency team rolls him on a stretcher directly into the eternal light. And quickly the bearded senior turns into an infant again. The three ladies in the service of the Queen of the Night appear as nuns. Tamino apparently grows up in a convent.

And so Jette Steckel tells The Magic Flute as a walk through Tamino’s life. To this end, she repeatedly deletes dialogues from the original in order to approach biographical turning points with many light gimmicks. Countless curtains of LED light chains provide a garishly flashing backdrop, they look like pixels in a gigantic computer game.

Pamina, the great love in Tamino’s life, jumps into his mind as a figure of light. Labyrinths, patterns, space images – everything can be conjured up with the flashing spheres. In the long run, however, the whole thing strains the eyes, especially since this cold aesthetic wears out. And the singers end up in the shadows, where they often stand around or walk on the spot while the revolving stage rotates. Intensive interaction remains the exception.

The Queen of the Night and her antagonist Sarastro do not appear on stage. While they sing their arias in the orchestra pit, their faces are projected onto the stage by video camera as woodcut-like likenesses. Both figures thus become principles of action, inner forces at work in both Tamino and Pamina.

Jette Steckel makes their common companion Papageno, the lively bird catcher in the original, an outsider, a dropout with dreadlocks. He, too, gymnastics across the stage at the beginning as a child and half-wit – his entrance aria seems to resound from the ghetto blaster: "The birdcatcher I am, after all." Later, Papageno lives in a cardboard box. And the production lets him get very close to the audience. At the end of the first act, for example, Papageno encourages the audience to sing along.

The British baritone Jonathan McGovern enlivens the heady concept by singing and acting with heart and soul, regardless of all the special effects – quite wet and approachable. He finds his female counterpart, greatly aged, at the end. Just as Tamino and Pamina as old men – after many trials in life – complete their journey together. The Turkmen tenor Dovlet Nurgeldoyev and the soprano Christina Gansch sing heartrendingly beautiful.

In general, the vocal ensemble is pleasingly cast. Whether Christina Poulitsi as the Queen of the Night with crystal clear coloratura or Dietmar Kerschbaum as the nasty Monostatos in Joker look. With his white-painted grimace and his chronic aggressiveness, he is also a stunner as a performer. The Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra, conducted by Jean-Christophe Spinosi, plays an upbeat Mozart – with tempo, nuances and plenty of expression.

According to stage statistics, Mozart’s Magic Flute is one of the box office hits. And this opera is considered a gateway drug for potential opera fans. Of course, it is good to have a new production at the Hamburg State Opera after more than 30 years, even if the previous production by Achim Freyer was of timeless beauty. Jette Steckel’s ultimately rather poetry-less, bloodless station drama cannot keep up. The staging does not destroy the charm of the play. Much, however, is too pixelated, flattened. Too bad.

Next performances: September , and October 3, .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *