Of the historically significant theatrical productions that I wish somehow to have been in a position to see, Peter Brook’s pared-to-its-essence Carmen is near the top of the list. So I approached the same director’s hyper-condensed, multi-lingual A MAGIC FLUTE, presented by the Lincoln Center Festival, with a certain eagerness.
The result is basically a chamber opera (the only instrumentation is an onstage piano) that presents a classical comedy, played in a modern style by barefoot actor-singers amidst moveable bamboo poles that represent whatever is necessary at any given time. The opera’s ritual elements are retained, as one would expect from Brook, but with the Masonic iconography only hinted at.
I can’t say that I felt myself to be in the presence of genius, but it was charming to hear Mozart’s music performed with such simplicity and, perhaps due to its reduced length (under two hours), it became more enchanting as it went on, without the moments of longueur that a full length production has a hard time avoiding. In the end I was quite taken by A MAGIC FLUTE, as Brook has wisely titled it, liking very much this particular Magic Flute and not feeling much immediate need for another.
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