Thursday, July 19, 2007


Ok, so it should be no surprise that I have difficulties with Die Zauberflote. Very briefly, I find it difficult to square the problematic things that I perceive in the libretto with general critical reception/appreciation of the music.

On the one hand, I realize that my anxieties are a product of ahistorical forces, and that if it were possible for me to experience the work in its time, I probably would have a different perspective. But, that's just impossible, and to pretend to be able to cast off the years of intervening history and concomitant changes in thought would be disingenuous, I think.

So what to do? I actually think it's a disservice to gloss over the difficulties and say that "well, in Mozart's time..." If the music is to be continually played *outside* Mozart's time, there should be some sort of rationale that does justice to its difficulties.

I've been reading these two books, each of which dedicate chapters and many pages to discussing Die Zauberflote, dealing with gender anxiety (which is a large source of the unease with Zauberflote).

I'm still not quite sure I'm as well-equipped critically to fully understand all the references cited, but the books have been very informative so far. I'm in the process of gleaning more in closer reads (that is, because I can't find my Fux book to do counterpoint exercises -- I hope I don't have to buy that one again!).

In any case, gender anxiety, particularly in opera/classical music (which is still weirdly male-dominated and baldly stated as a positive). Also, see the numerous threads on usenet (e.g., where many posters cannot wrap their heads around a woman playing Julius Caesar. What's even more bizarre is that they have accepted that the role shouldn't be sung transposed; instead they want a counter-tenor because it's more "masculine."

I dunno. I find wee countertenors a little hard-pressed to sound more masculine than Ewa Podles (not a "male" role, but seriously):

In any case, I've also been reading the usenet posts of Piotr Kaminski, who, along with other posters like Simon Roberts, have really interesting critical ideas.

Based on suggestions, I might be acquiring new Zauberflotes. In the meantime, enjoy this little youtube of Pamina's "suicide scene." I first thought the visual was a little bland and vaguely qbert, but the play with perspective is incredibly telling, and I think really fits with the more complicated aspects of Zauberflote-in-modern-times as well as the specific dramatic scene. yay for animation.

p.s. I'm sure you can tell who sings Pamina!

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