Some time ago, after it had been pointed out to me by a member of the Minnesota Orchestra that, not only was I to blame for the name change from the Minneapolis Orchestra, but that the opera Die Zauberflote had a connection to my family and me, my first reaction was one of relief, as so much about our lives had seemed confusing, especially to my three (at that time small) children. We had been on a tumultuous rollercoaster ride, turning our lives upside down. At last, I thought, “Here are the answers. Wolf has encoded it all in the opera. I know the ending. Everything is ok.” I could not have been more mistaken.
The characters in the opera are usually clearly drawn, as they frequently are in opera. They are either very good, or very wicked. But is this so? At the time the opera was first performed, critics were horrified at some aspects of the libretto. The Queen of the Night, for example, did not seem to have a consistent character. There almost seemed to be two of them — a good one and a wicked one. But what if there really, in fact, were two people vying for that position– one obviously wicked and the other far more deceitful, presenting themself as ‘good’? Monostatos was clearly wicked, but what if there were an entire group of wicked servants?
But the greatest mystery in real life, compared to the opera, is the three children. In the opera they encourage Pamina to keep her from despair at Tamino’s not talking with her. What if they seemed to morph into, artistically speaking, characters that could be used against Pamina? What if any of them end up being bewitched by and conspiring with the Queen of the Night?
Nothing could be more dreadful…but hopefully all turns out well in the end…and, of course, the Zauberflote uses everything for good…