The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflote) – Historical Stage Designs

18 Apr

I’ve been watching what my visitors like to read about, and the most popular page on my blog is devoted to The Queen of the Night in various historical productions. It’s also the post that’s the least commented on for how busy it is! I thought I’d vary a theme, and give my silent visitors another dose of Historical “Magic Flute” illustrations, from olden-timey productions!

We’ll start with what scholars believe may be designs from the first production!

This is possibly an illustration of the first scene from the first production of "Die Zauberflote". From Joseph and Peter Schaffer, 1791.

Tamino, Pamina and Papageno sit around jamming in their make-shift band. Tamino/Flute, Papageno/Magic Chimes, Pamina/Vocals. From Joseph and Peter Schaffer, 1791.

Next, we’ll move on to an early revival.

A lady (Papagena?) Indicates a Genie descending from the sky to Papageno. From Joseph Quaglio's 1793 production.

A Guard and what I can only assume is a completely nude Tamino, frolicking gaily in front of a temple of Firey Doom (Left) and a Temple of Watery Destruction (Right) -- like in Zelda but with more nudity! From Joseph Quaglio's 1793 production.

A group of Esoteric Priests of the Sun sing very, very slowly (on most recordings) about Isis and Osiris, numerous times. From Joseph Quaglio's 1793 production.

Next up is one of the more well known Early productions.

Before the Sun Temple, lo, the mighty Osiris, of whom many Esoteric Priests sing many long songs about! From Shinkel, 1816.

Sarastro's moody garden. This is probably where he goes to chillax whenever he needs a break from the endless, slow, praying to Isis and Osiris by the many Esoteric sun priests. From Shinkel, 1816.

The Queen of the Night's Palace. Notice the famous star arrangement in the background. This Screen was lifted to reveal the Queen sitting in those stars singing. From Shinkel, 1816.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel 1815

Here she is! Watch out, or she might ask you to stab somebody! She's got a thing for stabbing! Karl Friedrich Schinkel, 1816

Next up, another generation of Quaglio!

Palm Grove, with more stonework than palms. From Simon Quaglio's 1818 production.

Sarastro's camp. I think this is where Papageno wishes he was a mouse, so that he could hide from the mighty sorcerer. From Simon Quaglio's 1818 production.

The Temple of the Sun, with a Zodiac beam cutting through the esoteric symbolism of incense carrying ladies and wordy lines of latitude. The words are probably just the prayers to Isis and Osiris written out for the more forgetful Esoteric Sun Priests. I mean, they sing so Slowly, they're bound to forget the lyrics from time to time. From Simon Quaglio's 1818 production.

And here’s a straggler:

Papageno and Papagena rock the Magic Chimes like it ain't nobody's business! Schwerdgeburth after Ramberg, 1826.

Now all you lurkers, don’t be afraid to comment and talk about some of things you might like to see on my blog! I will be collecting historical pictures from all of Mozart’s operas, and whenever I get a good batch, I’ll be sure to put them up! See you all laters!


3 Responses to “The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflote) – Historical Stage Designs”

  1. hoijokes April 23, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    My German co-worker took me to this opera a couple years ago. I liked it a lot, but the stage scenery sucked for this particular troupe. But I’ve always been a fan of the opear in general.

    Did you know Kenneth Branagh did a movie of this, sung in English and set during WWI? It was never put on DVD for the US and I want to seeeeeeeee it sooooooo badly. There are snipets on youtube.

    • tysonvick April 23, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

      Hi! I know about Kenneth Branagh’s movie. He made the bizarre choice to take nearly every single fantasy element out of the story, and set it in World War One. No half-bird people, no dragon, no Genies, no exotic worlds, and everyone is white instead of Asian, Middle-Eastern and African like the play calls for.

      It’s like taking the Lord of the Rings and removing the fantasy and setting it in World War One… And making all the Orcs British. Sure, it might turn out passably, but it seems like willfully removing some of the best parts of the opera.

      I watched some of those clips on you tube too, as well as at the official site. Nothing really works for me. It’s one of the first operas turned into a movie, and instead of just telling the story faithfully, it starts out with a Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet type re-setting, but without the skill with which that film does it.

      Also, the play is supposed to be Family Entertainment, and Branagh makes it look so gloomy and adult. Like “Cars” in a gritty urban setting.

      Maybe the title should be adapted accordingly, and instead of “The Magic Flute” he should have just called it, “The Flute.”

      I want my dragon, darn it!

  2. Valde February 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    Great article. I shared your link on my tumblr account.


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