This singspiel tells a story that must be branded as vague and convoluted if one is to be fair to the material. However, Mozart’s music lifts “The Magic Flute”‘s tale out of the mundane, and it doesn’t matter so much just what it is that the original creative team was trying to concoct, what they were commenting upon, and how successful (or not) they were. Directors Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky took the piece at a decidedly high-tech angle, using animation and film. It seems possible that the singing heads could be projected onto the stage by a computer as well, and if that is the case, this production has found its time, if it hadn’t already; in a pinch, all the performances could be sent via Google Drive.
The youthful cast acquit themselves well, and if they seem somewhat sedate in their portrayals both vocally and histrionically, it is well to keep in mind that they were creating a character and their story in thin air. They didn’t have the benefit of sets. Costumes were often art pieces. Dialogue was struck in favor of notes of quick explanation fed into the video design. Frequently, the stage was filled with those singing heads, their bodies drawn on. Conductor Karen Kamensek held forth with skill and vision, and the orchestra and chorus did their usual stellar job.
While it seems great fun to speculate that the creative team looked forward and saw the possibility of all theater spending some time being delivered via the web due to a pandemic that was bound to happen eventually, since this production premiered in 2012 it is unlikely. While the end result is clean, sophisticated, and a bit tongue-in-cheek, which is certainly not out of keeping for the opera, this reads as a one-trick pony and ceases to remain visually riveting after the first few scenes.
At Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 North Wacker, (312)332-2244, $39-$319. Through November 27.