Director Susan Moore on a very special adaptation of The Magic Flute
September 15, 2018

One of Mozart’s most popular operas, The Magic Flute is directed and adapted for Opera Anywhere by Susan Moore, set in 1950 and performed in English.

Marrying Mozart’s beautiful music with a witty script the production celebrates the birth of teen culture in this tireless coming-of-age story. Opera Anywhere has been bringing approachable, informal and inspired performances, featuring some of today’s finest up and coming young singers, to audiences since 2000.

Here director Susan Moore explains her inspiration for this adaptation.

I find that the concept behind a production is often sparked by a single idea. For Magic Flute my inspiration came from a pre-fame image of James Dean as a bespectacled, unassuming youth. One could never imagine that Dean, as an awkward teenager, could ever become a leading man—the Hollywood icon of his generation—just as Tamino could never fathom becoming the hero of his own imagination.

As a child I was fascinated by my mother’s stories of her childhood in heavily bombed London. She spoke of how the cinema on Saturday morning offered affordable escapism from a fairly grim existence as Britain struggled to get itself back on its feet. Unsurprisingly post WWII Britain experienced a baby boom. The traditional societal structure of deference, which had been eroded by two world wars, saw a further schism as young people turned away from the traditional values of their parents. In the early 1950s, influenced heavily by the new ‘teen culture’ emerging in the US, and fuelled by the new sounds of rock-and-roll music, British youth wanted to express its new found identity.

Working class London teenagers from this period found themselves in a real quandary. Their parents had served in the war, so they knew hardship, separation and grief, but they also enjoyed the freedom of developing opportunities. Young people had more disposable income and therefore became much more visible in society. They dared to dream of a better life and questioned the roles their parents had formerly accepted. Hollywood provided escapism, glamour, rebellion and inspiration to this generation.

Set in 1950, Hollywood glamour is epitomised in our production by the Queen of the Night, who is modelled on the leading ladies of the period. By stark contrast Pamina is a meek and bookish London teenager and Papageno is a tweedy game-keeper, the latter representing the older working class holding on to a past way of life. We have created a magical kingdom which represents many of the realities of our own world but that still has aspects of the strange and mystical. 

At its heart, Magic Flute is a coming-of-age story. Although Tamino initially takes on the Queen’s quest for adventure, he soon realises that life is much more complicated and he aspires to a greater quest: to join Sarastro’s Brotherhood and find enlightenment. He discovers that life is not simply a choice of right or wrong, day or night, and that love is the strongest power of all. With Pamina at his side they can face any trial together.

The Magic Flute is at Battle Memorial Hall on 7 October. Tickets available online now.