Opera. In a world where man and woman are implacable enemies Tamino and his beloved Pamina struggle to find their way to each other.
Opera in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Pamina has been abducted by the great Sarastro, leader of a brotherhood of holy men, who wants to save Pamina from the mother’s pernicious influence on her. The mother, who goes under the name the Queen of the Night, uses the gullible youth Tamino to fetch the daughter home again.
Musically, Die Zauberflöte is a breathtaking tale with a bright-eyed sincerity, as heartbreakingly dramatic as it is comical and entertaining. Rikard Bergqvist’s successful production of this, Mozart’s last opera was premiered in November 2009 and became a huge success, highly acclaimed by both press and public. Due to the high demand a further eight performances were added to the original fourteen. Now the production is back.
Watch a clip from the performance 2009.
Watch pictures from the performance 2012.
Costume sketches by Tomas Sjöstedt.
Markus Schwartz rehearsing as Papageno 2009.
Die Zauberflöte, a tough nut to translate.
Even though most operas are now performed in their original language, Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte is still often performed in Swedish. The two most probable reasons for this are that it is a lyrical drama rich in spoken dialogue, and it is usually performed as an opera for the whole family, even the youngest members. A real translation classic is Alf Henrikson’s version that he made for the Royal Opera production of 1968. It has been used in a number of productions up until today, including the Ingmar Bergman film. However, in the production of Die Zauberflöte by the Göteborg Opera we have chosen to present a new translation, one bearing the signature of Rikard Bergqvist, the opera’s director. It might be of interest to take a closer look at a couple of passages and to compare the original German with the choices made by Henrikson and Bergqvist. But first let us point out that both translations were created to be sung, not to be read on a text machine. It was therefore necessary to make some departures from the original to ensure smooth accentuation, rhyme etc. A text machine translation that only needs to be read can be translated in a far more literal way.
Papageno is perhaps the opera’s most popular and well-known character. In the introductory song he presents himself as the happy, free bird-catcher:
Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja,
stets lustig, heisa hopsassa!
Ich Vogelfänger bin bekannt
Bei alt und jung im ganzen Land.
In this passage Alf Henrikson has, kept very close to the original, except for the fourth line:
A bird-catcher such as I, can not be seen every day (translated literally without rhyme).
All people know about me.
I catch birds with my warble.
Today, not many people know what a bird-catcher is. Actually it is not even a being, but rather a tropical plant that reproduces itself through birds and on whose sticky leaves small birds often get stuck. Rikard Bergqvist has chosen to make a decidedly freer translation and, moreover, to establish early on in the story the bird-catcher’s evasive adherence – man or bird or neither?
As a bird I fly so free beyond your wildest fantasy.
Am neither man nor animal but both of them and better still.
The Magic Flute has traditionally been a problematic work due to the view of women that was prevalent in the late 18th century – in other words it has been charged with being misogynous. This applies in particular to the way Sarastro and his company speak of The Queen of the Night. One part of the text that is difficult to get around is when Tamino meets the Speaker, who accuses him of being naïve for trusting in a woman:
Ein Weib hat also dich berückt?
Ein Weib tut wenig, plaudert viel.
Du, Jüngling, glaubst den Zungenspiel?
O, legte doch Sarastro dir
die Absicht seiner Handlung für!
Instead of claiming that women speak a lot but get little done, Henrikson chooses to place a snake on their tongue - possibly a Biblical reference:
You trust in a woman’s speech?
A snake does live on woman’s tongue, and you believe because you’re young!
Whatever now Sarastro’s deed, he has his reasons you can believe!
Henrikson does not avoid the misogynous aspect, and when Ingmar Bergman made his film he chose to change the first two lines to: “You trust in this woman’s speech? A snake upon her tongue does live”. Thus the Speaker refers merely to the Queen of the Night, and not to women in general. Bergqvist too has softened up these lines somewhat.
A woman is your reference?
My friend, a woman’s speech entices but your understanding denies this. Yet when your eyes are open the truth will stand outspoken.
Infinitely more examples can be found in this rich production but surely it would be even more exciting to form your own opinion at the premiere on the 28th of November?
Göran Gademan, Dramaturgist