Creating Miniature Buildings for The Magic Flute

29 Dec

Die Zauberflote or The Magic Flute is one of Mozart’s and the world’s most famous operas. It is a fantasy story about an Asian Prince who has to undergo trials, and he is helped by his half-bird/half-man friend, Papageno.

At the end of the play the Prince has to face the challenges of the Fire Temple and the Water Temple using his Magic Flute.

I wanted these two temples to be a part of my final image, and I wanted them to be something you could focus your attention on once you were done admiring Papageno and Papagena!

Die Zauberflote, Act 2 by Tyson Vick

Die Zauberflote, Act 2 by Tyson Vick

I built these two temples as miniatures using blocks, balsa wood, craft foam, toys, expanding foam and styrofoam. First I drew a concept, and then imagined how to make it 3D in the physical world. Using toy blocks as a base, I built them up, like modeling with clay, but by using rigid pieces. Below you will see the beginning of the Fire Temple.

Using a child's toy block, balsa wood and craft foam, I made the base of the fire temple.

Using a child’s toy block, balsa wood and craft foam, I made the base of the fire temple.

Anything that looks right for my purposes is enlisted, including empty containers. A paper cup was mutilated for the top of the Fire Temple.

I cut apart a paper cup for the building up top.

I cut apart a paper cup for the building up top.

I wanted the fire temple to be a building built into a volcano. The concept was for the volcano to have erupted during the buildings existence, destroying part of it. To make the mountain I added expanding foam, the type used in home repair.

I added expanding foam to the block to create a mountain.

I added expanding foam to the block to create a mountain.

After the expanding foam was dry, I carved it like a mountain. I also added a cute toy sphinx, because The Magic Flute has a heavy Egyptian influence in the story.

Once the expanding foam dried, I carved it to look like a mountainside.

Once the expanding foam dried, I carved it to look like a mountainside.

After everything was primed, I painted the Fire Temple with colors that matched reality. There’s also a tiny Isis statue at the bottom, one of the gods who is praised in two different songs in the opera.

Here is the Fire temple painted.

Here is the Fire temple painted.

Looking at a close up of the top of the temple, you will see how I tried to make it look like a volcano had erupted.

A close up of the little Sphinx and melted building.

A close up of the little Sphinx and melted building.

The Water Temple, on the other hand, was less heavy and rocky. I wanted it to look like it was built on a plateau, but tha the water rushing out of the temple had eroded it so far over the years, that it was just sort of hanging on a hollowed out spire.

The water temple was made out of a toilet paper tube, styrofoam inster and more expanding foam.

The water temple was made out of a toilet paper tube, styrofoam insert from some random package.

I used a styrofoam insert for the base, and I loved the way it looked textured and rocky when painted. I think the styrofoam mixed with the expanding foam worked better than just the expanding foam alone.

The water temple gets it's own expanding foam piled on to the styrofoam.

The water temple gets it’s own expanding foam piled on to the styrofoam.

I primed this one in two colors. The black was for bricks. I carved brick shapes into the craft foam which was built over the toilet paper tube. When the carved foam is painted black, I could then lightly brush the surface with brick colors, grey and brown, and the black in the brick’s crevices would stay black, making the bricks pop, visually.

I primed the pieces in black and white. Black to create shadows, white for better color application.

I primed the pieces in black and white. Black to create shadows, white for better color application.

The little Grecian temple at the top of the water temple turned out very wonky and misshapen, but I fixed that in photoshop. I even added glitter to the greens so that little weird light effects would occur when the miniature was photographed for the composite image.

Here is the water temple painted.

Here is the water temple painted.

Viewing the completed composite once again, you will know how those tiny buildings were made! There are even more tiny buildings and cities seen throughout my project. Can you spot them all?

Die Zauberflote, Act 2 by Tyson Vick

Now, when you look at the image again, you will see the two temples flanking Papageno and Papagena! Die Zauberflote, Act 2 by Tyson Vick

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2 Responses to “Creating Miniature Buildings for The Magic Flute”

  1. Roo Bookaroo December 29, 2014 at 12:23 am #

    Very imaginative work, with very exciting results.
    One remark, though, since I known the libretti of all those operas intimately: No way that Tamino is helped by “his half-bird/half-man friend, Papageno”.
    I have no idea where you read this description. But Papageno is certainly not a “half-bird”, only in Disney movies. In the opera he is a bird catcher, full-human, and certainly not “half-man”.
    It is really bizarre how those stories are being transformed and distorted. You must have read this somewhere, and not invented it yourself, I presume.

    • tysonvick December 30, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

      I don’t remember where I came across the idea that Papageno is half-bird, like a faun. I feel like the text and original costume support this. Monostatos is afraid of him, like he’s a beast. Papageno behaves like he is the last of his kind, and a lot of emphasis is put on his only true partner being Papagena, and that they will mate to create more of their kind. The original costume is also more beast that human style dress, made almost entirely of feathers. He’s also depicted as a faun-like character, with base desires and a pan-flute. If I come across the text that states this explicitly, I will post it if you are interested.

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