Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Die Komische Oper

Opera is crazy subsidized in Germany, so the tickets are cheap and there are three major companies in Berlin, each with several shows in repertory. I love opera, so I figured I'd see a few of them. The Magic Flute is one of my favorites and it was playing at the Komische Oper a few nights after I got there, so I bought a pretty-good ticket and went.

And oh. my god. I didn't realize it was possible to mess up the Magic Flute this badly. I think this picture, taken during intermission, is of two people consoling each other that the opera will be over eventually and surely not all art is this bad.

It was truly shocking. I mean, the Magic Flute is a little goofy, but it has great music and a perfectly passable story - two guys, one of them a bird-catcher who provides comic relief, have to go on a quest to rescue a woman, then they both get wives and everybody's happy. And there's trials and whatnot.

The music was lovely. The singers were great, the orchestra was great, all that was great. But the production? Holy cow. First, the director had written in three extra characters, a middle-aged woman and two younger men who would wander in, introduce people, sometimes take over some of the characters' parts, or yell things during the breaks in other people's songs. I think they were supposed to be funny and avant-garde. Every time they came on I would rediscover my hatred of them.

Monastatos, who is a Moor, was in blackface. In a leisure suit. Excuse me?

When the Queen of the Night first came out, she looked a little like Cher on crack. Then during her first incredible, beautiful aria, she ripped off her left hand, her hair, and her left breast. Then a leg fell off as they carried her off on a stretcher. What?

The magic flute was shaped like a...part of the male anatomy. (At least Tamino didn't have to pretend to play it in this production.) And the magic glockenspiel? Six pairs of...another part.

At the end of the show, they came out and did their curtain call to decidedly weak applause. I mean, by the time the entire cast was on stage, it was definitely the kind of clapping that says, "We're keeping this up until the last of you is headed off and then we're out of here." And then? The chorus came out and started the whole series of bows AGAIN!! They're lucky anyone was still clapping when the curtain started coming down.

The worst thing is, this production is only from 2006 so it could be around for a decade - until some other opera director decides to display his brilliance by messing up Mozart. I was so annoyed after the show that I walked to an internet cafe and looked up a couple of reviews online. I was happy to learn that the reviewers hated it, too. There were a few things I thought might have seemed weird because of the language barrier, but no - they didn't make any sense to a native speaker, either.

So, that kind of put me off going to the opera without recommendations for specific shows.

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