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A new Magic Flute

Artistic Director Stephen Langridge introduces our semi-staged production of Mozart's The Magic Flute.

Artistic Director Stephen Langridge introduces our semi-staged production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

At last year’s Festival we premiered a brand new, large-scale production of Die Zauberflöte.

We threw everything at it: masses of scene changes, props galore, puppets, and exquisite costumes… Our plan was to revive the production at Glyndebourne this autumn, and take it out on the road to visit our regular touring partners’ theatres.

Alas, Covid-19 struck, and we all know how 2020 has developed since. We left it as late as possible to cancel our Tour, hoping that everything would right itself in time, but with social distancing in place, and touring venues closed, we had to start to think very differently. We realised that an interval doesn’t work with social distancing, nor does a costume fitting, nor can a stage crew function properly (for this production they operated with the energy and proximity of a rugby scrum). At some point we said, enough of what’s not possible, and asked ourselves instead: what can we do?

The answer is before you today. A semi-staged, abbreviated version of The Magic Flute, performed in English. It’s the same fantastic cast, led by conductor Leo McFall and director Donna Stirrup (who, together, came up with this shortened version). Our orchestra is a little smaller than normal, but they are on stage so you can actually see them, and there are no boys because they’ve missed too much school!

There’s no scenery, and the costumes and props are what we could find that we thought helped the story and fitted the singers. Opera has the reputation of being a lavish art form, and sometimes it is, but it is amazing how little one needs to tell a story through music and theatre. Our dedication at Glyndebourne is to ensemble music making, ensemble acting, and a way of working which is collaborative. So while we call this a semi-staging, the performers don’t view it that way: for them it is the full thing. Mozart and Schikaneder were both practical theatre people, and we think they would have approved of our refusal to give up in the face of adversity!

It is an unusual year, and this is an unusual performance – and we hope you enjoy it: it’s not often you get to sit in this beautiful theatre to experience great music and theatre with so much space around you. Think of it as an upgrade to first class, and sit back… but don’t relax too much: theatre is a two way, live activity and we need you to provide the noise, laughs and energy of a packed auditorium. In years to come you’ll be able to say, ‘I was there during the pandemic, and saw a wonderful performance of The Magic Flute…’ and then you’ll regale your friends with the names of world famous singers who you first heard here, today.

Thanks for coming to join us, for arriving as arranged, following one way systems, sanitising your hands, and for sitting separately, muzzled like Papageno is after his encounter with the Three Ladies. Hopefully soon we will be able to return to our anarchic, un-masked selves, but for the moment it’s only possible to make live opera if we all work together. Thank you.

Image creditsThe Magic Flute, autumn rehearsals 2020, photos by James Bellorini

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