The Magic Flute in Mexico City

By Oswaldo Mejía

The season of the Opera de Bellas Artes starts with a performance of The Magic Flute. In this performance the opera in two acts is a tribute to ancient Mexican cultures, and the scenery is inspired by the ancient city of Monte Alban. The costumes worn by the cast are made with ancient indigenous techniques, and the dialog even includes some words in Nahuatl.

After a 14-year absence from the repertoire of the Opera de Bellas Artes, the work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, is based loosely on Lulu oder die Zauberflöte by A. J. Liebeskind and Life of Sethos by Jean Terrasson. It will be presented on February 16 and 18 at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.

“We decided to do this tribute to the pre-Hispanic era because we realized the similarities in the worldview of Egyptian culture and Mesoamerica. Mozart included the pyramids of Egypt in his opera, and we find a parallel in Monte Albán, because it is a mystical civilization with pyramidal architecture,” said the stage director, José Antonio Morales.

The costumes of the cast were created by 100 native Oaxacan village weavers, who worked for more than four months on backstrap looms to make the garments, which were colored with natural dyes extracted from plants and flowers. Although the atmosphere generated from the pre-Hispanic motifs is accented, the intention and the original message of the opera is not distorted.

Rereading The Magic Flute allowed a number of creative possibilities in dealing with the Masonic influence in the text and comprehensive symbology present in the story. It is a drama that contains hidden signs, secret messages and teleological questions about the existence of a supreme god, duality and the ultimate end of existence.

Focusing the work on areas such as Mesoamerican cities was a revealing experience for the artists involved, and the score led them to set part of the story in the tombs of the ancient city of Oaxaca and decorate the set with colorful frescoes seen on buildings there. Adapters considered using dialog in Spanish so the audience could better follow the story, because originally the opera was written in German.

The main roles are played by Lourdes Ambriz and Maribel Salazar, who give life to the character of Pamina, and Ernesto Ramirez and Diego Silva in the role of Tamino. Sarastro will be played by Tamás Bátor and Papageno by José Adán Pérez. The choir and orchestra of the Teatro de Bellas Artes provide music, under the direction of John Daly Goodwin. Tickets are on sale at Ticket Master and the venue box office.


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