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“The Magic Flute” as a musical in Munich: colorful and harmless

“The Magic Flute” as a musical in Munich: colorful and harmless

The melodies of the opera “The Magic Flute” are world famous. No matter if the bird hunter Papageno desires 'girl or girl', Prince Tamino is passionate about Pamina's face or the Queen of the Night sings 'Hell's Revenge' to the highest levels of her heart – many can sing along after the first few notes. Now there is a remake as a musical. After kicking off at the Deutsches Theater in Munich, the festival will move to Festspielhaus Neuschwanstein in Füssen from 4 May.

More than 230 years after its premiere in Vienna, the fairy tale celebrated its premiere in Munich on Friday evening – not with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but with a new composition. Composer Frank Niemsjern had great respect for the assignment and did not want to accept it for a long time. But in the end he was convinced, also because the music had nothing to do with the compositions of the Salzburg musician (1756-1791). This is 95 percent new music, Nimsjern said.

The result is a colorful bouquet of different patterns. Sometimes the songs based on Ainu Laos lyrics are rocky and wild, sometimes ballad-like and poppy, with Latin sounds in between. There are always metaphors from famous passages from the opera. Nimsgern even captured the tune of Queen of the Night almost completely, just rearranging it. Musically, Katja Berg was convincing in the premiere, taking on “The Vengeance of Hell is Cooking in My Heart” in a pop version with Misha Kovar in the role of her daughter Pamina, including coloratura. There was sustained applause not only for Berg and Kovar, but also for Patrick Stankey as Tamino, Christian Schön as the buoyant Sarastro, Tim Wilhelm in Papageno's feather cape, and Chris Murray as Monostatus.

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However, overall, the piece lacks the courage to do something independent and modern. For long periods, Benjamin Sahler's production adheres closely to Emanuel Schikaneder's text for Mozart's music. There could have been an example of how to walk away from a masterpiece, such as Elton John's famous musical Aida, which is primarily based on Giuseppe Verdi's opera.

The new “Magic Flute”, on the other hand, clings to the original without achieving its depth and precision and seems outdated. This becomes clear in the central female characters. Innocent sweet Pamina is dominated by dominant mother. Resigned to fate, she waits in a tulle princess dress to be freed from Sarastro's prison by Prince Tamino. Tamino is of course praised as a heroine and promised to betroth her daughter to the queen, who has no say anyway but enthusiastically accepts her choice of husband. Finally a man! Greetings from the 1950s.

Papagena (Stephanie Groening) doesn't make it any better. She can wrap Papageno around her finger in sexy leather clothes. Women are either innocence or sin. Between them lies the Queen of the Night, driven by revenge, who has no interest in pleasing any man. The self-confidence that the daughter lacks. It would have been interesting and entertaining to watch the powerful Pamina expose the gang of arrogant men and their old jokes with wit and cheek.

Anyone who doesn't mind dusty clichés can enjoy three hours of light-hearted entertainment and an elaborate, colorful stage set with imaginative costumes. The main source of laughter is Papageno's friend, a parrot who makes jokes and makes cheeky comments. The three fairies are also disrespectful. More of that would be good for the piece.

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(By Cordula Dieckmann/DPA)

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