The opera isn’t exactly the most popular place for kids these days, But, in an attempt to attract more young viewers, The Metropolitan Opera in New York opened a 100-minute, all-English abridged version of Julie Taymor’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Now, I used to be a little obsessed with The Magic Flute as a yound child. My grandfather loves opera, so I guess a little bit of his influence rubbed off on me when I started to watch the movie version of The Magic Flute incessantly when I was little. For those of you that don’t know, The Magic Flute is an opera written by Mozart towards the end of his life, which describes the journey of Prince Tamino to rescue his love, Pamina, and pass a set of trials and tribulations to do so, with the help of his friend, the bird catcher Papageno. It’s the perfect opera for kids, so naturally my parents decided to take me to a production of it at the Met when I was 7. I loved it, even though it was a) almost 4 hours long, and b) in German. But, for most kids, those things wouldn’t fly well. So that’s why this holiday season, the Met adapted Julie Taymor’s 2004 (and still running) production of The Magic Flute to a 100-minute, all-English abridged version for children.
I saw the production today. It was very well done, even though I sort of missed the original German in some of the songs. But, it featured the same set and cast from the normal version of the production, including the amazing puppetry. It seemed like a pretty good step in the Met’s attempt to reach out and get new members of their literally dying off audience. Another part of this plan was broadcasting that same production of The Magic Flute to over 100 theaters in the U.S., U.K., Japan, and Norway in high-definition and surround sound. The Met has plans to broadcast several more operas this season just like that, from now until April. This ties into an existing program where Met performances are broadcasted live on SIRIUS satellite radio (which I just got, and it’s sweet), and certain content is available on live webcasts online.
Overall, I think it’s great that the Met is trying to re-attract people to opera. I think that classical music is too under-appreciated in today’s pop-dominated world. People forget that it was Western music that first used standard musical notation, which is now used in virtually all types of music. Of course, it could also be a generational thing. My grandparents were the children of Jewish Eastern European immigrants, who experienced anti-Semitism, pogroms, and persecution long before the Holocaust. To them, opera, or even Western Art Music (the proper term for all kinds of “classical music”) in general represented in Europe a sort of identity with rich, secular Western Europe, and in the United States a way to be like the rich, WASP-y upper-class Americans; to feel assimilated into society. Today, their descendants (such as myself) have already assimilated into American society. We no longer need the music of upper-class America to feel included; we listen to the music of the country itself — rock and roll, pop, hip-hop, etc. But, I still firmly believe that all kinds of music should be excepted, or at least considered, by people, whether it be the Black Eyed Peas or Beethoven.