Director’s note for ‘The Magic Flute’

“The Magic Flute” is Mozart’s final opera and one of his last compositions. It premiered in Vienna in September 1791 and Mozart died a mere two months later. Despite being sick, hungry, broke and altogether miserable, Mozart’s music is some of the most joyous and beautiful he ever wrote.

The piece is technically termed a “singspiel” — meaning that it combines singing and spoken dialogue – and that means that it’s what we today call a musical. While on the surface “The Magic Flute” and its characters can be considered a bit silly, it is actually an endlessly fascinating work of art.

So many meanings have been attached to this opera: Is it about brotherhood? The meaning of true love? The method for achieving an honorable life? Some feel the work is a philosophical tract about the Age of Enlightenment, some believe it’s a commentary on the French Revolution, some accuse Mozart of purloining Masonic secret rituals. Others argue that it’s a political diatribe aimed against a conservative Austrian government headed by Maria Theresa. There are also theories that the work is inspired by tarot cards or even by the psychosexual beliefs of Carl Jung. (Obviously, the latter is historically impossible.)

Every one of these is fascinating to research but ultimately one has to tell this story in a way that will speak to modern audiences. We like the idea of approaching this largely as an adult fairy tale but with real characters experiencing real emotions. And one of the great advantages of producing opera with the Pacific Symphony is that the orchestra can be given its rightful place as a character in the piece. It really is perhaps the character of the opera. Mozart’s amazing writing not only has the orchestra supporting the singers’ emotions, but it oftentimes tells us things that words can’t express. And without giving away too many secrets, the beauty of Segerstrom Concert Hall gives a fantastic jumping off point to offer a feast for the eyes. And when all is said and done, there always is – and always will be – Mozart’s music. A beautiful hall; a world-class orchestra, cast and conductor; this opera; Mozart. What a privilege for every one of us — performers and listeners alike — to be a part of this!

Bob Neu

Tickets here

Audio: Klemperer conducts the Overture to ‘The Magic Flute’

Here’s one of my favorite recordings of Mozart’s Overture to “The Magic Flute,” with the Philharmonia conducted by Otto Klemperer. It’s stately but never heavy, and finely detailed.

Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony give three semi-staged performances of “The Magic Flute” beginning this week. Tickets here

Pacific Symphony: November concerts

Anton Bruckner

Here’s your roundup of Pacific Symphony concerts in November, on the quick, mobile-friendly, with links to single tickets. There are 11 concerts in all during the month.

It starts with a tribute to the great Ella Fitzgerald on the pops series. Guest conductor Larry Blank leads the orchestra and vocalists Aisha de Haas, Harolyn Blackwell and Capathia Jenkins in an evening of music made memorable by The First Lady of Song. The concerts are Nov. 3-4. Tickets here.

On Nov. 6, community musicians ages 22 and up gather in Samueli Theater for the chamber music edition of OC Can You Play With Us. Pacific Symphony musicians conduct five ensembles. Flutist Cindy Ellis, clarinetist Joshua Ranz, cellist Ian McKinnell, percussionist Rob Slack and conductor Roger Kalia direct homogeneously-instrumented ensembles of amateur musicians in this free concert. Tickets required; tickets here.

In one of the big concerts of the year, Carl St.Clair will lead the orchestra in its first-ever performances of Anton Bruckner’s giant Symphony No. 8 (Nov. 9-11). As prelude, organist Christoph Bull plays music by Bach and Bruckner and the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey sing Gregorian chant. The performance, dubbed “Cathedrals of Sound,” will include a design element by the Prokop brothers of Dusseldorf that will evoke St. Florian Cathedral in Linz, where Bruckner served as organist and is interred. Tickets here.

Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble gives its first concert of the year Nov. 12. Gregory X. Whitmore conducts a program that includes by band classics by Wagner, Grainger, Gordon Jacob and others, as well as a rare performance of John Philip Sousa’s early “President Garfield’s Inauguration March.” Tickets are free but required. Tickets here.

In the first of three concerts this season at the beautiful Soka Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo (Nov. 12), St.Clair and the orchestra offer Mozart’s final two concertos, the Piano Concerto No. 27 (with Benjamin Pasternack as soloist), and the Clarinet Concerto (with new principal clarinetist Joseph Morris as soloist). Also on the program, the Papagena/Papageno duet from “The Magic Flute,” with Yllary Cajahuaringa and Mark Peng. Tickets here.

Roger Kalia and Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra perform a program of Berlioz, Austin Wintory and Stravinsky (“The Firebird”) on Nov. 12 (tickets here); and Irene Kroesen and Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings get their season underway with music by J.C. and J.S. Bach, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov and Brian Balmages on Nov. 19 (tickets here).

The month winds up (and the next begins) with the Symphony debut of Estonian guest conductor Anu Tali. Her program (Nov.30 and Dec. 1-2) bookends a pair of Czech masterpieces — Smetana’s “The Moldau” and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 — with Gershwin’s snazzy Concerto in F as centerpiece. The noted Chinese pianist Xiayin Wang is soloist. Tickets here.

–TIMOTHY MANGAN

Audio: Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 9

One of the earlier of Mozart’s masterpieces, the Piano Concerto No. 9, K. 271, completed when he was 21. Here’s an exceptional performance from the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields conducted by Neville Marriner, with Alfred Brendel at the piano.

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson plays it with Pacific Symphony and Rune Bergmann
tonight through Saturday.