Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center – Dress Circle, Seat D2 ($125).
Conductor – Kirill Petrenko; Tamino – Joseph Kaiser, Papageno – Stephane Degout, Queen of the Night – Anna-Kristiina Kaappola, Pamina – Diana Damrau, Sarastro – Reinhard Hagen
Story: Three ladies kill the serpent that was chasing after prince Tamino. They tell Tamino they are followers of the Queen of the Night. Tamino eventually finds out the Queen of the Night is evil. He seeks after Pamina who is captured by the Queen. After passing the three trials, Tamino and Pamina are married.
Well, the story is much more complicated than that. For starters, there are Papageno and Papagena. The bird catcher Papageno has a lot of face time in the opera, although his is a secondary character. Papagena, on the other hand, speaks – with a squeaky voice - most of the time, and has only a couple of arias to her credit. And there is the good King Sarastro and his staff. However, one doesn't go to this opera for the story, but for the production and the songs.
This was an enjoyable concert. No so much for the story, which is a bit too complicated and a bit loose at the same time, but for the funny scenes and the enjoyable music. The most notable aria is the one sung by the Queen of the Night. It is only from reading the program notes that I realized the highest pitch was a C. I didn't know people could reach that high!
The many changes in scenes are a technical challenge, which the stage crew pulled off without a hitch. The Program Notes listed 10 scenes for Act 2, although it was more like a continuously changing scene. The use of people to animate the different animals (birds, lions – which I thought were bears) was also ingenious.
This is an opera one attends to have an enjoyable time but not to be moved by the story or gripped by the drama. It's worth the time, though. And one has to give the artists and production crew great credit as it is not a simple feat to pull off; which the Met did flawlessly.
This opera was of the last ones completed by Mozart, and he died soon after its premiere. I have seen quite a few (at least 4) of Mozart's operas, I have yet learn how to enjoy them as a complete work of art. I always find something wanting. In this case, there is not much of a story, even for a comedy.
A couple of additional remarks. The use of trios (as in three ladies, three spirits) and the many triangles is interesting, but best left to musicologists and Free Mason experts to decipher. Mozart's operas tend to be questionable in today's PC climate (treatment of women in particular). Somehow I have not heard people protesting loudly about this.
We moved across the street the day before the concert, and in the process misplaced the tickets. Since I bought them as a subscriber, all it took was a phone call to the box office and duplicates were waiting for us when we got into New York. Quite convenient.
See also the New York Times review of a later performance - here Damrau actually sang the role of the Queen. I was wondering why she would consent to do the role of Pamina, which while rich, is a bit sparse. Little did I know she would do both. She also retired her role as the Queen, so I won't get to hear her doing the crazy tune, that's too bad.