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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Operas In Plain English: Magic Flute, Act I

During my sophomore year of college, the spring opera was Magic Flute. My roommate was one of the 3 Ladies, so I borrowed her score one day and wrote this.  I've seen Flute 4 times, and to this day, it still makes no sense. 

Die Zauberflöte
Music by W.A. Mozart
Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder
Synopsis by Sadie

The orchestra begins with a really fucking AWESOME overture in E-flat major. ROCK ME AMADEUS. There’s a nice fanfare section, during which the slower audience members have time to go sit down before the great bouncy little fugue-y part begins. This part is barrels of fun, very catchy, and gets everyone excited. The curtain goes up. Everything else goes downhill from there...


We’re in a forest, or maybe a desert, or whatever. A guy runs onstage with a giant snake chasing him. Seriously, WTF?

TAMINO: OMG, AHHHHHH!!!!!!!! *swoons*

GIANT SNAKE: Oh, come on. Fucking pansy.

This creates a problem: the show’s barely started, and the only person we’ve seen so far has fainted. Hmm. Dilemma. But never fear! Since we’ve gone almost a minute without something ridiculously convenient happening, three very odd-looking women suddenly appear out of nowhere.


The terrifying, ghastly, horrific snake apparently has a fatal weakness for finger guns and three-part chords, and obligingly dies so we can move on with the story. The Crazy Sisters then immediately fall in love with Tamino, the only male onstage, who is officially the girliest prince ever.

3 WOMEN: OMG! *squeeeeeee*

They wax eloquent over the great courage and manliness of the little man who fainted. Finally, they scurry off to tell their Queen Mama Bear that the little prince has come. And swooned.

Tamino wakes from his manly daze. This show stopped making sense right around the time the giant snake appeared, so in walks Papageno, Big Bird’s batshit crazy great-grandfather, singing a wonderful Aria Of Personal Backstory:

PAPAGENO: I’m a birdcatcher! I wish I had a girlfriend.

The ever-vigilant Tamino notices that there’s someone else singing onstage. And he’s the star of this show, dammit. No Comic Relief Baritone is going to spoil that. Kthxbye.

TAMINO: Who the fuck are you?

PAPAGENO: I’m everyone’s favorite character in the show. Because I’m the Funneh One. Who are you?

TAMINO: The romantic lead. I’m the noble prince and I am damn pretty. So you can stop with all the great baritone arias. I’m the lead tenor here.

PAPAGENO: I’m colorful and bird-like.

TAMINO: I sing high Ab.

PAPAGENO: I have birds.

TAMINO: My name comes first in the program.

PAPAGENO: I didn’t FAINT after forty measures. OH SNAP!

Word, Birdman! They chat more about Papageno’s backstory. Don’t worry if you didn’t catch it. The only important part of the conversation deals with the “Star-Blazing Queen.”

TAMINO: Hmm! Star-Blazing Queen, you say? I wonder if that’s the same as the Queen of the Night.

PAPAGENO: Muuuhhhhhh?

TAMINO: I only saw one Queen on the cast list, so it must be her! No way! You’re one of her lackeys, right?

PAPAGENO: Muuuhhhhhh?

TAMINO: Then ‘twas you who slew this fearsome serpent that damn near ate my pretty little self?

PAPAGENO: . . . sure!

TAMINO: Oh, wondrously modest Crazy Birdman! How’d you kill it with no weapons?

PAPAGENO: Muuuhhhhhh?

TAMINO: Oh, you must have strangled it! How wonderful!

PAPAGENO: . . . sure!

THREE LADIES (offstage): Papageno, we will shank you.

PAPAGENO: Damn it.

The Three Pink Power Rangers swoop back in, delighted to see that the Prettiest Prince is awake and his hair is as nice as ever. First they harass Comic Baritone.

A RANGER: Papageno! You liar! We killed the snake.

ANOTHER RANGER: And now we’re going to lock your mouth shut.

They put a golden padlock on Papageno’s mouth. Which sets me to wondering, how exactly does that work? Are there holes in his jawbones that the lock fits through? Or do they just stab it on through? Or is it magic? Hmm. Anyway, Papageno spends a great deal of time looking foolish and making noises through the lock, because remember, he is Teh Funneh.

A LADY: Hey there, Prince Hot Stuff. Here’s a picture of the Queen’s daughter. See you later.

The ladies leave; Tamino gapes like an idiot at the portrait of a woman whose name he doesn’t know.


He continues in this vein for several pages and several high Ab’s while Papageno is in the background dying of boredom. Oh, wait, sorry, that’s actually me. Finally the Aria Of Mysterious Young Creeper Love ends, and Tamino is about to leave and go be royal somewhere else when the ladies come back.

LADIES: You like?

TAMINO: She’s gorgeous! I love her! She’s my soulmate for all eternity! What’s her name?

LADY: Pamina. You have matching names, so we’ve already drawn up the pre-nups.

The Andrews Sisters helpfully explain: Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night, was kidnapped by EBIL!King Sarastro.

TAMINO: Ohhhh . . . on second thought, I like the bachelor life . . .

FIRST ANDREWS SISTER: It’s OK! She’s not a whore!

TAMINO: He’s not sexing her up?


TAMINO: Then why did he kidnap her?

FIRST SISTER: . . . she crochets.

TAMINO: OK! Sorry, I was worried. As long as she’s not a tramp, I’m still in this deal. So where’s the bad guy live?

SECOND SISTER: Y’know. Around.

TAMINO: My manly heart beats strong with love and fervor! I shall fearlessly smite this evil tyrant! *a chord of music* OMGAMOUSE??!!!!!!! *cries*

FIRST SISTER: It’s the Queen! Holla!

Queen Vader appears in Bb with a bang and the odor of brimstone. She means business. There’s some F6 action of the coloratura kind, ornaments like whoa, and several notes only dogs can hear. FUCK YEAH!


(is basically the idea)

She swoops out with the three ladies before Tamino can say “OMG never mind!” He stands there kind of blankly. Because the Queen is more masculine than he is. Let’s just be honest.

TAMINO: What the hell just happened? Dude, was that an F6?

He makes to leave, but Comic Relief Baritone runs in to stop him.

PAPAGENO: Mmmmmnnnbfnnmm!

TAMINO: I can’t help you.

PAPAGENO: Mfffgggjkfdmmmmmmm!

TAMINO: Just go back to Otoh Gunga, Jar-Jar.

The Three Spice Girls come back in. How many times have they done this now? Like a jillion? Can they please either be here or be offstage, and stay there for more than thirty seconds? How is it they don’t have to sit through the arias and we do? They remove the pretty golden padlock – sorry, what was the fucking POINT then? – and Papageno swears to tell the truth fo’EVA an’ EVA. Uh-huh. And if you believe that, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Iowa I’ll sell you real cheap. And then they padlock Tamino’s mouth and never take it off.

Okay, fine, they don’t. Maybe if I keep saying it, it’ll actually happen and I can stop cutting my wrists every time he walks onstage.

They all launch into a lovely quintet about the beauty of truth: if all lying mouths could be locked shut, then all men would live in peace and harmony, in a world of light and love and beauty and truth where young children of every nation could run onto a hilltop and sing in sweet harmony with small puppies and dreams and pretty flowers that shine like the rainbow of diversity.

Now that I’m done throwing up in my mouth, the Spice Ladies get down to business. After all, Tamino’s going on a Supa-Quest of Danger! He needs help!

SCARY SPICE: Here is a Magic Flute to protect you.

TAMINO: What is it?

SCARY SPICE: It’s a flute that’s magic.

TAMINO: And that helps me how?

GINGER SPICE: Just shut up and take the damn flute.

TAMINO: Can I fight with it?

MEZZO SPICE: No! Just play the fucking thing!

TAMINO: Ignoring the fact that that’s the stupidest idea ever, how is this going to make me look remotely masculine? Can’t I just have a sword or something?

But seeing as it’s the title of the opera and he’s a tenor, Princess Tamino is stuck with his pretty little flute. Papageno gets bells and rejoices in the fact that at least he got something percussive and therefore slightly less feminine.

SPICE GIRLS: Well, you’ve got a girly instrument, a shiny instrument, and a comic relief sidekick! You’re set, Prince Dreamboat!

TAMINO: Hold up! Don’t I get a tour guide and human shield?

SPICE GIRLS: Three boys will float by and push you in the right direction. And maybe point out some really obvious stuff you’re too dumb to notice.

TAMINO: Umm . . . I was kind of hoping for gladiators? Or Rottweilers? Maybe some Green Berets?


(Next scene)

We’re somewhere else now. A group of slaves are talking about Pamina. She ran away from Monastatos, her EBIL! captor, and was free for a grand total of three nanoseconds before being captured again. This is normal for her. She is Made Of Fail.

Exeunt the slaves. Enter EBIL!Monastatos. He is the black guy, which automatically means he is the Funny Villain, because that was okay back in 1791 when you didn’t have to make him British. He has re-captured Pamina and drags her in. She’s all boo-hoo. But it’s her own fault for not running away well enough and basically fucking everything up. Pretty much par for the course, as we’ll see.

MONASTATOS: OK slaves, chain her up and go away! (they do so) Now I will fumble awkwardly with your chains for an absurdly long time, so that if someone by chance wanders in, I will conveniently miss them!

Papageno wanders in, looking clueless.

PAPAGENO: Where did the plot go? I lost it again. Oh, hi, Pretty Lady.

Monastatos finally finishes memorizing the notches on the handcuffs, or licking the floor, or whatever the fuck he was doing, and looks up to see Papageno! OMG, two Odd and Funneh Characters! Big Bird meets Eddie Murphy!



MONASTATOS: What a freak!

PAPAGENO: You’re black!


PAPAGENO: But you’re black!

MONASTATOS: Please don’t hurt me!

PAPAGENO: Stop being black!

MONASTATOS: It’s the devil!

PAPAGENO: You’re so black!



And they both bravely run away. Pamina wakes up from her brief Coma Of I Haven’t Gotten To Sing Much Yet So I Tuned Out For A While.

PAMINA: Am I still alive?

It’s so tempting to just say ‘No,’ isn’t it? What kind of stupid question is that anyway?

Since we can’t last much longer on Pamina’s rapier wit alone, Papageno helpfully wanders back in.

PAPAGENO: Hey, baby. They call me the Love Doctor. They also call me Papageno.

PAMINA: Hi! I’m Pamina!

PAPAGENO: I bring birds to your mom’s palace. I have your portrait. There’s a really girly prince named Tamino coming to rescue you.


PAPAGENO: Blah blah blah eternal love!


PAPAGENO: I still don’t have a girlfriend.

PAMINA: Oh, you poor Comic Relief Character! I’m sure you’ll find someone just as Funneh as you.

Yay! Now: a duet in which they sing about how nice it would be to be married. Not integral to the plot, so again, don’t worry if you didn’t catch it.

(Next scene)

Somewhere else in Camp Grasping For Plot. Tamino enters with the Three Boys, who helpfully explain to the audience that they have so far led him on towards his goal. Tamino asks if he’s going to succeed (well, duh), and they aren’t allowed to tell . . . but basically, yeah. The boys now leave.

TAMINO: I wasn’t paying attention on the walk. Where am I now?

A VOICE: Go back!


A VOICE: Seriously, go away!



TAMINO: But I don’t want to!

The voice – OK, I admit it, that was actually just me – gives up. He knocks on a door to ask for directions and a bathroom and a priest answers, who explains that this Sacred Place of Sacredy Sacredness belongs to – EBIL?Sarastro! GASP! At that, Princess Tamino gets all high and mighty and means to leave, but the priest helpfully informs him: dude, fool, you wrong.

TAMINO: But he princess-napped my girlfriend! – whom I’ve never met!

PRIEST: Oh, pffft. Women are stupid. You shouldn’t believe them.


TAMINO: OK! Great! Thanks!

Now, since he’s in emotional turmoil, Tamino decides it’s a good time to play the flute (um, yeah, your guess is as good as mine here). Animals appear and eat him, leaving the opera tenor-less and after a rousing chorus of YAY and some backflips, Riverdancing and fireworks, the opera ends.

Okay, not really. The animals are all OMG, The Flute Is Great. Tamino whines because his girlfriend can’t hear his delicate Chaminade trills. He hears Papageno’s bells and decides to go look for him.

…This whole scene was more or less pointless and should probably have been edited in the final cut. My apologies.

(Next scene)

Elsewhere in the forests of Gondor, Papageno and Pamina are tiptoeing. Exactly why? – not really sure. But they’re tiptoeing, dammit! Pamina cheers up at the sound of her Girly Boyfriend’s Girly (Yet Also A Little Phallic) Weapon. All this sneaking really didn’t work so well, because in comes Monastatos. And guess what? Pamina is . . . in trouble! Again! Wow!



PAPAGENO: Wait! I’ll save us. *whips out the magic bells*

MONASTATOS: Oooh! Shiny! *prances off*

PAPAGENO: Damn, that was simple.

(Because in 1791, it was still OK to portray the Token Black Character as unintelligent.)

PAMINA: Hahaha! Idiots!

A CHOIR: Dun dun-dun-dun Dun Dun Dun DUNNNNN!

PAMINA: OMG! Sarastro!

King Supa-Fly (NOT EBIL!)Sarastro comes in all blinged out in a tricked-out chariot. Instead of running away, which apparently doesn’t occur to her this time, Pamina breaks down and confesses her “crimes.”

PAMINA: Waaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.

SARASTRO: Shawty, you need a man.

Monastatos brings in Tamino. Um, Monastatos? He said “man.”



TAMINO: Bright angelic dream of loveliness!

PAMINA: I always wanted a Sassy Gay Friend! *glomp*

MONASTATOS: All right, break it up. No Hugs Of True Love here. So Sarastro, my reward, please?

SARASTRO: A hundred lashes to your feet, minion.


SARASTRO: You’re the black guy.  In 1791 it’s still OK to abuse you.


SARASTRO: Welcome to Candyland, kids.

CHOIR: Righteousness, love, happiness, Age of Gold. Mazel tov.

Curtain falls. Intermission. Go take a bathroom break, we’ll start right where we left off.

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