Everything is mixed in this opera: a quest and a children's tree, ancient symbols and myths through the prism of psychoanalysis, a rogue novel and Masonic themes, subtle gender relations, sweet-sounding Mozart choirs, which a little more - and the whole hall will sing, like at a rock concert all you need is love. Lovers go through terrible tests in order to meet each other, and when they meet, they go through - already together - no less terrible. Everyone lusts for everyone, everyone saves everyone, many want to kill each other or themselves, but in the end everyone will love each other.
For the chief architect of Moscow, Sergei Kuznetsov, this is the second job as a production designer (the first is the opening performance of the Helikon-Opera after the reconstruction of 2015). Its co-author Agniya Sterligova (Planet 9) already has experience in theater scenography. At a press conference before the premiere of "Flute" on November 12, the authors of the play shared their impressions.
According to Sergei Kuznetsov, he and Agniya Sterligova came not so much from music as from the scenographic tradition, watched a lot of material, did not want to repeat themselves. “This is a show that balances on the verge of pop art and kitsch, but does not cross that line, a show where no one will get bored. Mozart would be pleased, - summed up the chief architect. - This is a reflection on the conflict and gravitation towards each other of the male and female worlds, which concerns us all. All creatures can identify themselves with some gender. Those who can do this, they will be interested, and the rest may finally think and decide. We think that after the performance, everyone will decide once and for all in this matter."
Agniya Sterligova concretized the idea: “In a dialogue with director Ilya Ilyin, we came up with an image of a Lunapark similar to the one that was at the beginning of the twentieth century in New York in Coney Island. This choice was also inspired by the pop-artist inflatable costumes of Alexandra Sharova. A large-scale rotating carousel, which is also the Temple of Wisdom, has become the background for the confrontation between the male and female worlds. And the artistic director of "Helikon-Opera" Dmitry Bertman said important words about the role of architecture. He said: “We have been friends with Sergei Kuznetsov for many years, he made an exposition for the opening of our theater, and we have long wanted to stage“Flute”. Sergei Kuznetsov is not an official at all, he is an anti-official, a real artist. Modern theater is symbolic, the age of imitation is over, painted curtains are no longer relevant, today architects are taking the stage, we see this in theaters all over the world."
Despite my musicological education, I could never understand, but even memorize the plot of The Magic Flute and concentrated exclusively on music. Why does the wizard Sarastro (meaning the fire-worshiper Zarathustra) summon the Egyptian Isis and Osiris? They seem to be "from different operas." Librettist-freemason Shikaneder (he is also the first performer of Papageno) hints at the Egyptian secret knowledge, beloved by the Freemasons, but what does Persia have to do with it? Why did the Persian sage kidnap the princess? It turns out to teach wisdom, and not at all to marry. Why, then, allows the Moor to guard her, who arranges natural harassment (the theme of the princess and the monster)?
Before the beginning of the action, we see a watercolor by Sergei Kuznetsov on the curtain, which depicts a carousel, which also looks like a chandelier, which effectively begins to smoke or drip with colors during the overture. Then the curtain rises and we find ourselves in Luna Park, and there whatever you want can happen: terrible dangers and terrible adventures.In the first act, a roller coaster is built on the stage, along which a train rushes - and it turned out to be not a train, but a serpent chasing Prince Tamino. The snake almost overtook him, but at the last moment he is rescued by three infernal ladies in black and red - the fairies of the Queen of the Night.
In Luna Park we are waiting for fair performances, and quests with tests that must be passed. And it is no coincidence that the Queen of the Night crawls out of a glass of popcorn, and the black snakes on which she sits - not scary, inflatable - reduce the pathos of the famous, most difficult in the world aria from F of the third octave. (By the way, the aria sounded brilliantly, as did the tenor part of Tamino and the bass of grandfather-professor Sarastro. In general, they sing, jokingly coping with Mozart's instrumental parts, inconvenient for singing, the orchestra plays with taste, without getting into other eras. For the ears - sheer delight. But we are not about that).
In the center of The Magic Flute's scenography is a kind of world tree, which is painted in different colors: it flames and crackles when the heroes walk through the fire, turns blue and gurgles when they pass through the waters, shines with gold in the Sarastro temple. (I read that this is a carousel, having already written a review, but associations with the biblical tree of the knowledge of good and evil only decorate it, because we are talking about knowing the depths of human nature and enlightening them). The shape and metal structures of the tree are such a bell of the Shukhov tower, a constructivist bell (and, running ahead, I will say that then constructivist metal bells will grow around it). This tower holds the composition well, it is always in the center and the main one, it helps to build choreography, rotates on a round stylobate when changing scenery. The media screen on the left side of the stage is commenting on what is happening.
Color plays a huge role in scenography, interacting with the bright inflatable pop art of costumes. The colors are symbolic and help unravel a complex story. Children in love - Prince Tamino and Princess Pamina - have their own colors. The princess is pink, and Tamino is in a blue business suit, the alter ego of the audience, only at the end transforms into a steel warrior. Unlike children in love, there is an older generation - mother Night and the sage Sarastro, she embodies the dark feminine principle (black, black fairies, snakes and monkeys), he is a sunny, intelligent masculine principle (golden armor, golden warriors and a golden jumper with lurex). Night and Sarastro have a difficult Freudian relationship with each other and with the younger generation. They argue for the princess, he stole her, the bitchy mother is jealous of her daughter to Sarastro (or Sarastro to her daughter?), Even wants to kill him. But then the elders made up and rushed off on a journey with a suitcase, it was not for nothing that Night sings the second aria on an inflatable pink swan, fell in love, one must think (again, Nabokov's German swans come to mind). All scenography and choreography is constantly working with black and gold colors, including in the construction of crowd scenes. The soldiers of Sarastro are perfectly resolved in the form of golden men in armor a la Star Wars. And women also serve him, but not black, but enlightened, moonlight, in white spacesuits.
If we are to assign gender symbols to the colors, then Papageno is the only one of all the heroes painted in the colors of the rainbow with a predominance of purple and orange. He's the most "inflatable". Understand how you want. The same rainbow, in a skirt made of balloons, is his fiancee Papagena. In general, Papageno is a typical servant from a rogue novel, correlates with the prince as Leporello with Don Juan, Sancho Panso with Don Quixote. He drinks a lot, lies a lot, is afraid of everything, but it was he who saved the princess from the Moor. Mozart wrote singspiel, a vaudeville with musical numbers and conversational remarks for a simple theater. The text of the famous bird-catcher's aria is rather filthy, but it is not read here. Here the bird-catcher is a child's hero and at the same time a rogue who reduces the pathos of the main couple of the prince and the princess. Lovers must pass the tests of fire, water and murderous silence.The worst thing for a woman is when a man doesn't talk to her (and in Orpheus he couldn't look at her, remember?), And she doesn't understand why. And sings a touching aria, so that she breaks into tears. The princess is about to commit suicide, raising a sword over her. Papageno immediately offers a parody version of suicide and is hanged on a balloon.
In the last scene, where the lovers unite, the set designers place them in the most pompous place - on the top of the structure of that very tree-tower, and the lovers kiss on the tower, hinting at the ending of the Hollywood film.
And what is the magic flute that helped to pass all the tests? I think that the flute is an art, it softens both fear and the strangest and darkest principles that exist in adults and even in a princess (the black bull-Moor who torments her periodically is another archetype of passion). And the variant of the flute is Papageno's bells. They are simpler, but, nevertheless, if they are “turned on” in time and duplicated on the media screen, then everyone, even the villains, start dancing, into a dance-generalizing ending that removes the enmity between the heroes. In doing so, the bells look like a Rubik's cube, a mascot from a blockbuster. And in the last scene we see their invariant: constructivist metal bells have grown around the "Shukhov tower". It was the "children" of the iron tree.
I must also say about the number three. There are three chords in the overture to the opera. Three heavenly boys - white clouds, from which children's discant heads protrude, when they appear, form beautiful "white" pictures. The boys help the prince. They are opposite to the three depraved black fairies of the Queen of the Night. And the fairies also helped the prince, by the way (if you lost the thread of the plot, they saved him from the snake train). When the Queen of Night departed with Sarastro, black women, demonstrating the magnificent capabilities of machinery, fall into hell - for what, one wonders? Or is the queen freed from her dark beginnings? Or is it just a reminder of the final scene of Mozart's Don Juan? Still, there is some gender discrimination here. As boys - so white, as girls - so black and to hell. Feminists would be unhappy.
As Sergei Kuznetsov said, the most beautiful thing about The Magic Flute is its ambiguity. It has an infinite number of interpretations, because it is all based on fairy tales and myths, initiations and archetypes, funny and deep at the same time, and therefore "Flute" is always relevant and gives room for imagination. And the scenography shows all these symbolic and mystical floors perfectly and presents to the viewer in an easily assimilated show form.