A short guide to understand the citizens rol in Die Zauberflöte by Mozart, Graham Vick and Ron Howell in Palau de les Arts, València.
I feel the duty to share with you what we are living as citizens in Mozart’s Magic Flute. From my personal and professional perspective I write some notes so that the public can better understand the proposal, because critics are failed in this. If this contributes to the increase in the joy of your attendance I will feel happy and if not, too.
We understand day by day how difficult can be to accept it for the habitual public. Because they only have the chance to enjoy it once and the shock that it produces on them is greater than the ability to assimilate their complex and enriched discursive content. Sometimes, a small but noisy and unciviliced part of that audience preferred to boo childishly the work of three hundred people, rather than try to do this intellectual exercise. But its ok, we have the right to freedom of expression, although these verbally violent behaviors capable of forcing leave of the Musical Director until the respect returns to the Opera House, draw the intolerance of those who manifest them.
So we are in, acting, dancing, learnig and warming with masters more than 100 hours, we are so lucky and we know.
Citizens at Die Zauberflöte: Who we are and how we work
We are almost 70 people. When we started we were not professional actors, but now we have a master’s degree of more than 100 hours with the best teachers in the world, Mr. Graham Vick and Mr. Ron Howell. We are exceptionally invited to take part of the Opera stage. We are not young, old, fat, slim, tall, short, male, female, we only are persons, then we only are ourself without filters. We work in this astounding project only with our energy, emotion, concept and flesh in motion. We don’t have a salary to be part of the art-process is our reward. We received precise instructions from our Director on what musical moment we have to act and how we have to do it. We follow freely our inner emotion making it growing toward a team goal. We are a silent mass speaking sometimes as a peripheral clumsy or shouted sotto voce. We become the collective conscience of feelings of the soloists following at the Mozart and Schikaneder Libreto says or hides. We fall in love, we fight, we fuck, we live and we die in the stage and literally we return from death, like Orpheus, thanks to the magic Mozart’s music in each performance.
But we are ordinary people of the 21st century offering our bodily in the Opera House, truth to an audience that pays and demans to see fiction.
What is the great audacity of the Mozart proposal?
When Mozart composed the Magic Flute he was dying. He was, following Norbert Elias, in his life’s Act IV: living and working as a free artist, with pressing illness, growing debts, growing loneliness and professional despair. That’s why am not sure that Die Zauberflöte is a praise of Freemasonry, as the specialist critic usually asserts. I believe rather that it is a praise and refutation of the established order, at the moment in which he realized that it was really killing him.
I believe in this because of the doubts about his death. Also because certain scenes in Die Zauberflöte, in which, as a creator, I read: farewell, impotence, guilt and hope in a different future based in equal rigths. I think Mozart used the irony and antithesis to share in the light and also in the shadows this message. I think that all the close women and men of his life are here as a complex and therapeutic farewell: his wife who is in Baden taken baths, his sister loving Queen in their childhood’s games who was forced to get married by her father and dramatically away from Wolfgang since 1788, his mother, whom his father blamed him to murder in Paris in 1778, and Magdalena Pokorny his last forbidden lover, wife of the Mason Franz Hofdemel, who hurts her whit a Knife, after Mozart’s awful smelly death.
I think that Vick turn the hegemonic way to read the argument knowing this reasonable doubts, a deep musical, theatrical and scenic knowledge and the fact that the Opera was conceived by Mozart as free, worthy but poor artist for the public of Schickeneder’s popular theater. Don’t forget that Mozart died ruined because the high society of his time rejected him and his music. Same thing is happening now with certain part of the public that attends this version of the Magic Flute: although they praise Mozart, they would have rejected him if they had been their contemporaries.
What is the great audacity of the Vick and Howell’s proposal?
I’m aware of the masterful link of each stage and musical moment with a deliberate amplification of the narrative diegesis based on anachronism, rhetoric function and body work. We are always paying attention to the orchestra and especially to the masterful musical conductor Lothar Koenigs, at that moment in which the baton rises and the magic begins. Let me let me specify step by step how it works.
The overture begins with the three Masonic chords, slow and solemn, and after a short adage, the allegro transports us to a disturbing sensation, to the memory of a not clear event. That concern directs us to the interior of the scene and the posters of Pamina kidnapped. After the development of the main theme and the repetition of the three Masonic chords the piece is divided into a second part, more complex and tense. During this fugato moment we realize where the problem comes from. Magically, the audience takes also over their role in the work, specially if they boo us, including our fabulos and accurate Tamino, Dmitry Korchak, who takes a poster close to me.
The question is that the established order is manifested, but the privileged situation has been altered: now, people without voice but with protest sings has the control and the power of discourse on the stage. A kind of public, the elite of the temples economic, religious and technological (that are not cultural) realize that they have to pay a lot of money to see on stage the social reality that they avoid seeing on the street, while the scenery presents as a poor and threatening caricature of their empires. We are the subjects of this history and the public with their agree or hate give us an answer.
There are no curtains, in the scenic and costume design of Stuart Nunn everything is in full view, there is nothing hidden, people here are used to seeing between 40-50 scenography changes, thas’s why this proposal is genuinely honest and Obs-cene.
First Act. Introduction
The snake of the classic myth has been transmuted here by a bulldozer, which will be the sacrificial animal and after sacred car of Sarastro, bestial paradigm of the speculative power of economic empires. The snake-bulldozer concept, however, does not lose its condition as a tempting demon, in the catholic narrative, whose task will be recovered metaphorically in the second act, taking literally the words of a kind of Tamino-Adam in the lost paradise accompanied at this time, of course, by a few unenlightened witnesses, and the most important, our wonderful three ladies with a magnificent vocal and dramatic presence: Camila Titinger, Olga Syniakova and Marta Di Stefano
Oh I’m lost! /Sonst bin ich verloren,
That cunning snake /Der listigen Schlange
He has chosen me as a victim! /Zum Opfer erkoren.
Tamino receives a portrait of Pamina and falls in love. But there is a stage problem, how can the public see a small portrait and suddenly be captivated as Tamino? Vick has the audacity to make a synecdoque to solve this problem. He takes the part, the eyes (named in the Libreto) for the whole. And who supports the great portrait of Pamina during the Aria? The citizens. Yes, we are in the back of Tamino, while he is singing his wonderful Aria. We keep an alive and vibrant collage in the air and we build a cartesian subtext of love and appearance behind the banners. We are the ones who look, but as a public you can not see us, you can see the great image of beauty. Hidden behind we embrace in silence with our breasts the wooden banners, making love grow in us, believe me. There are a lot of readings but I love to read in this way: even if you don’t see them, each human being is an essential part of your dream because when people work together for love and art, we do great and lovely things.
Pamina Papageno Duet
The magnificent dramatic actor and tenor who gives life to Papageno, our beloved Mark Stone and the brightest and strongest soprano we have ever met, our beloved Mariangela Sicilia as Pamina, meet and perform a friendly exaltation of romantic love. At that time, divided into pairs, the citizens took the scene. We don’t act, we don’t know, we simply make grow in us the energy of love, and we fall in love each time with the person who is with us thankful the magic music that has united us truly in this life. We are pure energy expanding energy to other energies, feeling love. You only need to vibrate in the same tuning to connect with pure love, without fears. Don’t you think that on the street everyone walks very lost? It could be nice to see more people loving in public places, rigth?
Wir wollen uns der Liebe freun/ We want to enjoy love
Wir leben durch die Lieb’ allein / We live only through love
The power of music to transform human passions. Tamino magic flute and Papageno Glockenspiel
Following the Libreto the sound of the magic flute and Papageno’s bell has the ability to transform the men’s passions and erroneous behavior in a good way. This idea moves the scene of the wild human beasts, the happy police and also the big one: the challenge of fire, I mean, in this case the fire is related to love and sex, eating the apple in the original sin myth.
That’s why in first act, during Tamino andante song in which he is calling Pamina and playing the magic flute, the citizens behaviours evolve from anger to friendship and again, love. Our energy, real energy worked in groups with narrative line grows on the backstage and explodes on stage in front of the public, without method, just being every time in a different way, according to our way of feeling, building the improvisation with emotion, body and concept.
As a citizens we work to give sense to the extraordinary change, as well, we embracing police feeling always real happines adding light to the narrative fact, being witnesses and giving proof about the difference: before and after the Papageno bell rings.
Hiermit kannst /Die Zauberflöte will allow you to act
du allmächtig handeln /with omnipotence,
Der Menschen /of the men
Leidenschaft verwandeln /transform the passions
The great Sarastro, the slave Monostatos and the chorus of praise: end of the first act
This scene can be probably the most exhausting, it is very long and intense. Our tender, awesome and powerfull bass, Wilhelm Schwinghammer appears as the high priest Sarastro, taking Pamina, who is convinced of her kidnapping, a metaphor of what happens in the forced marriage of women in patrilocal cultures. Tamino and Papageno, until that moment responsible for saving Pamina, are sent to the basements (Sarastro’s temple) to be initiated, that means convinced in the system of patriarchal privileges.
As citizens we left our precarious camp, located on the borders of the obscene and we go to the fences, annoyed and irritated by what is happening in front of us, without being able to interfere in the scene. We are anger, silent and furious mimic. Sarastro and his priests: the magnificent choir of the Generalitat Valenciana dressed as a technological, religious, economic and military power, agree their bussines while the common people keep silent or raise their arms impotently. At this moment we really hate don’t know how to sing, don’t have the option to be outside, be able to make decisions about our future, especially women. The fences are our glass ceiling, diegetic and extra-diegetic ceiling.
We run to stop the bulldozer finishing the first act. However, despite we are a human mass we cannot limit the power of Sarastro who proudly drives the machine with Pamina on board. You understand? We are really seventy people, but we are invisible to the story and annoying to the public that feels threatened. We are without being, with an absolute and absent presence as a colossal ghost of the Opera House. Is not it fantastic?
Sarastro Aria, chorus dialogue and march
In the original Libreto it takes place in a golden temple with palms and pyramids luxurious and obscurantist place. We star to walk inside the stage, manifesting kind of Stendhal syndrome, which is what you feel if you were ecstatic with absolute beauty. Here, our mission is to transform the function of a static scenography which meaning change through our way of perceiving it. It is our look that transmits to the spectator an astonishment that doesn’t exist in the object, exist in the subject who contemplates it, as well us, the citizens. But you have to pay attention and be free of prejudice to let yourself go.
When Sarastro speaks our hoods come on the scene, as those of Pamina, Tamino and Papageno. They are orange hoods like the uniforms of death’s condemned. We have learned to put them on our head as if we commit suicide. We know that within them it is not possible to breathe, see, or just listen. We know that if someone came from behind and put a rope around our neck we could not defend ourselves and it would take us a few seconds to die. It is very hard to put the head inside the hood. We do it only when the situation overtakes us or when we are denied to know the hidden deals of the oligarchy. When we become victims of a system that exclude us, putting us in the firing wall, kneeling down, stealing our future. Hard to see in a supposed Egyptian tale, yes, we know, and hard to do it. That’s the metaphor and art-process power. We can choose to feel reverence or disagreement, but no one saves us from the hood.
Monostatos and the Queen of the Night Aria
Fast as a thunderstorm, the new moment to act arrives soon. Our strong and deep Monostatos, Moisés Marín, takes the scene accompanied by wooden instruments that generate an atmosphere of nocturnality and lasciviousness. Under the tree of knowledge in paradise (that will be the tree of death in Papageno’s aria) Pamina is sleeping. Monostatos wants to force her sexually, taking advantage of the fact that she has no will of her own. Monostatos used to explain the situation of Pamina, the metaphor that is commonly used to talk about women who have been forced to leave their maternal family to live with their husband’s family: “And what was really my fault? Having been entangled by a flower that has been transplanted into a strange land?”
Citizens behave like the lustful conscience of Monostatos taking the stage in pairs and having sex in public without worries. We are sexual energy in movement, as a public you are lucky that the aria is too short, because if it were longer we would probably have real sex. But we are not only Monostatos feeeling, we are also the energy of the sexual instinct of repressed women in patriarchal cultures, I mean, all of us all over the world.
This is the scene in which every citizen woman has an apple, the apple of original sin, which acts as a narrative anchor and tool of seduction. With the arrival of our wonderful, powerful and captivating Queen of the Night, the coloratura soprano Tetiana Zhuravel, our lust becomes knowledge and power to freely use and enjoy our feminine sexuality.
When the Queen of the Night come all men disappear scared from the stage. For a moment we generate a world of conscious women with sexuality, power and knowledge. There is a complex dialogue in this sequence in which the Queen bring light on the story explaining to Pamina the situation: shortly before her husband and Pamina’s father dies, he denies them, for being women, the Solar Circle, which is given to Sarastro, his best friend. In turn Sarastro to avoid the influence of the Queen of the night on Pamina, kidnaps her for his own benefit.
I would like to remember with us the first time we made this passage. Vick and Howell put us in a great circle, they began to look at us and they came to give us a phrase regardless of our body, voice, age or ability. We read the text with our voices, one by one until we close the entire dialogue and rehearse it dozens of times in a wonderful Babel. The risk was incredible.
He defended his position and I understood that it was not the best time to discuss it, because it can not be easy to solve it two weeks before the premiere. So we agreed to talk about it later. The next day Vick gave me a banner to hold it in the Overture where you can read: «We also have a voice». And he gave me a line of dialogue at the end of the Aria of the Queen of the Night: «He has made a mistake». Really I did not understand who was wrong: if Pamina, the Queen, Sarastro or Tamino… Now I understand that maybe Vick allowed me to say out loud what I think, that in certain aspects of the treatment of the gender issue Vick proposal was wrong. This type of acts, intelligent and generous, makes Vick a true teacher that I admire and respect absolutely.
Another stellar moment is one in which our lovely Papagena, the surprising and amazing Júlia Farrés-Llongueras comes out of a garbage can as an older woman. Three citizen women encourage Papageno to have love and sex with her proudly valuing the power of the mature woman, without fiction, until the great Dejan Vatchkov with its impressive scenic presence come to close the scene.
The lost city, the original sin as a fire challenge, the human wawes and Hirosima landscape
In second act, we go to the stage following Pamina, who is away in electric skateboard with Lucas Tino David Rebato, Kiran Sundip Patel and Dionysios Sevastakis our lovely three children enlightened with divine voices that always appear to facilitate the work.
But suddenly music changes, the grave and overwhelming voices of Vicent Romero and Richard Wiegold begin to sound and kind of terrible and not safe ambience is created. We go step by step rethinking our life, feeling slowly empty and lost, without remedy. Each one look inside itselves to get the emotion, keep and make growing. The distrust in what surrounds us and the disconnection of hope are the key to finish, each time in a different moment within the same musical interval, blinding our head with the hood. When Pamina voice is coming to our ears the hope return to us and we wait for her in a big circle, on the back to the chorus.
This the musical part in which Pamina an Tamino emerge victorious from the initiation. But, the proves fire and water, were transformed her as a the prove of to be safe in front of original sin: passion, sex and fire are linked, and the message said to us noting happens if your sexuality is free, thanks to the music effects we know now that original sin was a fake. The prove of the water is transformed here as a metaphor, we are human wawes, taking soloist with enormous riskc and eating diving into fierce population, and faster we fall at their feet to build as a battle or Hiroshima’s deaths landscape. We are the antithesis of being, the singers to walk between our inert bodies must avoid or move us and sing his love or his terror surrounded by sleeping dead. Our presence is visual antithesis and conceptual reinforcement of the narrative idea.
Last moment and the next reborn is for us the most pleasant, belive me. We are lucky to be quiet and acting death in the feet of the soloist, while Papageno an Papagena meet and sing about to have kids, while Queen of the Nigth, Monostatos, the tree kids and ladies sing aroud, and of course, while great Sarastro bass is coming to finish the Opera. At the end of every show we reborn completely fall in love of the music miracle, like if we are inside the womb lisenign the voices of the great mother opera and waking up by their lovely hands and seeing the light of new world, of new happy order, in which all of us we are friendly, empathic, visible for each others, that means to be equal, to be happy and have equal rights.
The final Boolywood dance a post-post modern way of living and enjoying
The most impressive moment (according to the people who have seen it and also the critic who is still in shock) is the final dance, because it reads like a prank, like contempt, and this is very interesting. I believe that it is the most coherent, committed, wonderful, intelligent and explicit way to end with absolute procedural truth that has been the scenic, creative, musical and social proposal of Vick. This involves, in effect, questioning without shame the status quo and he does it with a magnificent sense of humor.
Look: Pamina and Tamino are on top of the collapsed buildings, anti-Adan and anti-Eve, both creators of a new world. What can that mean? What’s about us?
It is the first time in the show that the whole team is present, touching each other and interacting. Now it is explicit that we are people costumed as popes, gurus, poor, rich or migrants. We all embrace each other regardless of hierarchies, we smile and celebrate together the Universal love, the joy of living and the work well done, for hundreds of hours rehearsing and three and a half hours of each representation. We are a single body united by music, euphoria and love. It is a magical and complex moment in which the immeasurable gratitude is mixed with the choreographic culture of Boollywood, the Viennese folk dances, the nude humanity and the incredible music of Mozart.
And yes, we don’t want to do a perfect choreography: we just want to celebrate life, love and music in an absolutely authentic way, because we have become unconditional lovers transformed by art. You can boo or you can resurrect in your seat and join our invitation enjoying the transformation that has worked in the S. XXI this miraculous «Magic Flute». But, you choose.
Citizens, we are aware of the weight and responsibility that the Director has given us, we are aware that we have been called to participate in this because of our ability to sustain the flame of the creative process alive in front of any critics unprepared to understand it. That is why we will enjoy the rest of our lives the happiness, security and confidence that Mr. Vick, Mr. Howell, soloists, chorus and all Palau de les Arts stage-manager team have give to us, specially Alex, Joan, Oscar, Chus, and Quique, making us a substantial part of this Die Zauberflöte, with its wonderful treatment and impeccable professionalism.
Now we know that we were chosen to support this production with our empathy, creativity, compassion, enthusiasm and courage. Thanks to the friendly and lovely souls to the Citizens team: the three Alice, Andrea, Andrés, Carmela, Carmen, Christian, Clara, Cruz, David, Delfina, Esther, Eulogio, Germán, Graciela, three Inma, two Isabel, two Joan and two Juan, Josep, Karla, Lluis, Ludo, two Manuel, two Margarita, María José, Mariola, Marisol, Mercedes, Pepa, Sebas, Sergio, Susana, Abel, two Amparo, two Antonio, Battsion, Beatriz, Carla, Coloma, Daniela, Enric, Hort, Jorge, Julia, Maite, two María Jesús, Matilde, two Miguel, Mónica, Nuria, Oriana, Paqui, Pedro, Pilar, Rosa, Vicente and Ximo. We are united forever by Mozart’s music and love.
Because we are energy mixed in motion, the Opera, its professionals and its audience will never be the same. Toi, Toi, Toi, for the future.
TREMENTINA DIE ZAUBERFLÖTELUX
(I will try to translate tomorrow into Spanish. I do not know why I should write it in English. Thank you for accepting my linguistic limitations. If you was read it to the end, be sure, I love you)
Head photo by Miguel Lorenzo.
[La flauta màgica]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sala Principal. Palau de les Arts. València.
Singspiel en dos actes. Música de Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Llibret d’Emanuel Schikaneder. Estrena: Viena, 30 setembre 1791, Theater auf der Wieden.
Escenografia i vestuari
Giuseppe Di Iorio
Palau de les Arts
En col·laboració amb Birmingham Opera Company
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana
Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana
Königin der Nacht (Reina de la Nit)
Marta Di Stefano*
Orador / Primer sacerdot
Segon sacerdot / Primer cavaller
Lucas Tino David Rebato
Kiran Sundip Patel