This ‘Magic Flute’ Has Ringtones, Bird Tracks and a Foley Artist

Supernatural events, curses and romances, heartbreaking arias and vocal fireworks — what can’t you love?

Mozart’s The Magic Flute is the gateway to the most popular opera, and has been performed frequently since its premiere in 1791. But the work of Simon McBurney The production opens Friday at the Metropolitan Operais the first to feature ringtones that replicate Papageno’s five-note musical trademark. Alternatively, you can use about 100 speakers strategically placed throughout your home.

For McBurney, the use of technology is less a nod to the creation of the “Zauberflöte” than an embrace of the present. It was at the Auf der Wien Theater in Vienna. Emanuel Schikaneder Opera librettist and inventor of the role of Papageno.

“Chikaneder had the latest method of making lightning, making machines make the sound of rain, birds chirping, people making horse hooves,” McBurney said in an interview. “The use of sound creates a world of magic, but at the same time there are genuine human concerns at the heart of The Magic Flute.”

The juxtaposition of intimacy and cosmic scale, simplicity and complexity, low-tech and high-tech have long defined McBurney’s work as founder and artistic director of a London-based theater company. accomplice. Audiences at his solo exhibition, The Encounter, which premiered on Broadway in 2016, experienced his work through earphones and immersed himself in sophisticated soundscapes. Something that could put distance between the performer and the audience brought them closer together.

McBurney once again experimented with sound with Zauberflöte, which premiered at the Dutch National Opera in 2012 and has been performed across Europe. (This work replaces the work produced by her 19-year-old Julie Taymor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; her family-friendly, condensed English version remains in the repertoire.) McBurney’s “Zauberflöte” A distinguishing feature is the importance of the acoustic environment.

“For the forest scene, we have five or six bird tracks that can be sent. We have two sounds: a stream running through the right-hand speaker on stage, and the wind blowing through the trees,” Mathieu sound designer Maurice said recently. In rehearsal, he said:

The singer’s voice is amplified through a body mic, but that’s only the oral part, which abounds in “Zauberflöte”, an opera with dialogue between arias. Since the mic is off during the sung part, the two sounds require constant adjustment by her mixer.

“There’s a lot you can do with a microphone dialogue,” said soprano singer Erin Morley, who plays the innocent princess Pamina. She said, “You can turn to the stage and whisper something. .”

Natalie Stutzmann, the conductor of this work, also participated. “With a house this big, it’s obvious that we have to use modern technology,” she said. “The Metropolitan Museum of Art is huge. It’s a lack of intelligence that doesn’t adapt to the space. It’s normal to help the singers fill the space when they’re speaking. It’s also important to match the volume of the part being played, otherwise it will feel like two different productions.”

Amplification also allows the integration of live Foley artist Ruth Sullivan. Ruth Sullivan works in a self-contained space to the left of the stage that looks like a mad inventor’s lab. “Her relationship with her actors is musical in nature,” McBurney said of Sullivan. “They know the sound she’s going to make, so it’s like Natalie Stutzmann dancing with singers trying to coordinate her voice with her cello.”

Stutzmann works closely with Maurice as well as with musicians and singers. (As an associate sound designer, he’s spent the last eight years bringing Gareth’s original vision of her fly to life while adding his own embellishments, such as ringtones.) Sound effects are indicated on the sheet music, so She knows exactly what to expect. when.

In addition to the enhanced interconnections between the moving parts of the opera, the pit is almost level with the stage.

“We decided, ‘Let’s get the orchestra up, let people know who the players are,'” said set designer Michael Levine. “Because we’re used to players hiding, and it didn’t exist in the 18th century.”

During the dialogue section of the rehearsal, the orchestra players turned toward the stage like flowers blooming toward the sun. They could watch for changes in its behavior.

“There’s nothing more boring than being a musician in an orchestra and being in the depths of a cave with no idea what’s going on on stage,” Stutzmann said. “Can you imagine spending three or four hours at the bottom of a pit, or five hours in Wagner’s case, with no idea what’s going on above?” not. Some become part of the action.

However, being at the top creates challenges. “We have to be careful not to cover up the singers,” Stutzmann said. “Being upstairs changes the sound balance and makes it louder. You have to be vigilant while avoiding a bland attitude.”

Many of the visuals in the work are also created in plain view. Artist Blake Habermann provides drawing and creative effects for his projections live. See how it renders the starry sky. “When I show all my tricks, it’s doubly magical,” McBurney said with a mischievous grin.

For Levine, making the whole house part of one organism reminds everyone that the art form’s artificiality and ephemerality are its strengths. “What we wanted to do was draw the audience into the possibility of theatrical error,” he said. “Things are being made right in front of you, it’s live, and it’s never going to happen again. And the people building it are here in the same room as you guys and we’re all We are doing it together.”

If this projection is a modern version of the magic lantern developed in the 17th century, McBurney and Levine also came up with a modern version of the magic carpet. This is the central square platform on which the characters can be carried, but it also hints at the instability they experience. . It can be raised, lowered, tilted to different angles, and tilted to different angles. Singers can run up and down. “It’s a lot safer when you’re riding,” Morley said. “It’s scary from a distance,” she said. “There were a few times during rehearsals when I went under the platform that I said, ‘I want you to do this,'” she admitted, laughing. what? ”

Some contemporary directors have been criticized for overemphasizing opera production over music, or for forcing unfamiliar interpretations. But McBurney’s North Star remains music and tries to stay true to what it means to its author.

“For Mozart, if you can make music as beautiful as this, I think people will change,” he said. “Whether he was right or wrong is debatable, but it’s called The Magic Flute. The flute changes people’s behavior.”

Mozart was confident in his music: “He knew that music could move people’s lives,” he added.

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