I LOVE this! Coming from theater, I can't help but get excited by innovative staging and multimedia presentations of old works. When it freshens a fairy tale I'm about ready to do backflips!
This production, currently being premiered and performed by the LA Opera, originated with the Komische Oper in Berlin and uses silent film devices, projected animation for the artists to interact with, a lot of humor and parodies the pre-talkie era with great panache.
The concept for the production was developed by Australian director Barrie Kosky and the British theater company 1927, founded by animator/filmmaker Bill Barritt and writer/performer Suzanne Andrade. Emerging in 2005 from the London cabaret scene, 1927 specializes in mixing live performance and music with pre-recorded animation and film. The company's aesthetic has been described as "a perfect combination of all the things worth loving: silent movies, Weimar cabaret, David Lynch and the Brothers Grimm" (The Guardian, UK - quoted on the official video)
Take a look at this wonderful trailer showcasing some of the inventiveness of the production:
From a review in the LA Observed:
Think of Mozart in his feverishly sick last months, penning his 1791 score of Die Zauberflöte, that sweetly child-like coming-of-age fable with Singspiel characters straight from a classic story book. And then think the 1920s, silent film, the earliest Mickey Mouse animations, Louise Brooks, Buster Keaton, Nosferatu and just how big a leap this LA Opera premiere made from one to the other.
Truth is, I never saw anything quite like it. For sheer ingenuity and stage/film savvy this one goes beyond mere stylized cleverness.
And it came to LA replacing the well-loved Peter Hall/Maurice Sendak fantasia because company mavens were onto something: a chance to lean forward and give this entertainment/movie capital a dazzlingly innovative, re-thought, all-of-a-piece "Magic Flute" never before seen outside of Berlin's Komische Oper, one devised by Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt with co-director Barrie Kosky of the retro-garde 1927, a London theater company.
So hold on to your hats. This staging is a sophisticate's delight. Its constantly sly wit and overall tech management come stream-lined with ever-changing yet logical stagecraft and imagery. Instead of the spiel or dialogue, it uses old-timey screen titles between scenes (1927, get it?) just like in silent films. Accompanying them are Mozart's well-known C-minor and F-minor keyboard fantasies played on an amplified forte piano, the sound a bit tinny like in those old movie houses. Esther Bialas's costumes are body-hugging flapper coats and cloches. The cast comes in white face (an irony is that the romantic leads are both black.)
Everyone appears on a separate, little platform attached high up to a big board -- remember "Laugh-In"? Well, it's sort of like that but the door flaps that open with each set of occupants are full-body size instead of just for heads. And whiz-bang animation supplies the background, complete with a cat cameo and assorted other animals.
It works. And it's impossible not to gasp at how thought-through a piece it is.(Read the whole review HERE.)
If you love fairy tales, enjoy going to the theater, enjoy animation and love the silent era (Papageno even looks like Buster Keaton here!) you might as well just buy a ticket now. And all to Mozart, so you know it's going to be a feast for all your senses.
The Magic Flute production runs in LA until December 15, 2013. Tickets and more information is available HERE.
(And since my wallet emptied thanks to Matthew Bourne's amazing Sleeping Beauty, I'll happily take donations so I can go view-and-review this for you too... ;) Too many wonderful fairy tale productions at this time of year! It's so hard to choose. How good is Santa at getting theater tickets to people pre-Xmas Eve, do you think?)