The Lyric Opera's recent production of Wolfgang Mozart Amadeus' "The Magic Flute," which ran last month, was named the Best Theatre Show of 2021 by Time Out Chicago. The publication's editor, Zach Long wrote, "A night at the opera doesn't get much more spectacular than this adaptation of The Magic Flute, which the Lyric Opera presented this fall. Originating from the Komische Oper Berlin, the show eschewed sets in favor of a large screen that was bathed in projections of intricate animations. With interludes inspired by the visual language of silent film, a cast of characters caked in white make-up belted out the opera’s dramatic score amid a sea of psychedelic imagery. With any luck, it won’t be the Lyric’s last production that recontextualizes the stage and reimagines what an opera can look like."
In 1976, Ingmar Bergman directed a screen version of the opera, which received four stars from my late husband Roger Ebert, who wrote, "His 'Magic Flute' is directed with a cheerful relish for its fairy-tale adventures, its young lovers and sinister sorcerers and improbable special effects. To film it, he decided to stay in the period, to approach the work head on and in its own spirit as a sort of spooky, funny bedtime story. [...] Bergman lets us see how the special effects work, he gives us backstage glimpses of the players hurrying to meet cues and relaxing during the intermission, and we're reminded of the many other backstage scenes in his films. We're supposed to be conscious of watching a performance, and yet at some level Bergman also wants Mozart's fantasy to work as a story, a preposterous tale, and it does. This must be the most delightful film ever made from an opera."
Roger and I bonded over, among other things, our love of opera. In fact, our first date was at the Lyric Opera ("Tosca"), and I now serve on the Board of Directors. Although our strongest emotions leaned toward the more traditional performances, we also encouraged a reimagining of contemporary opera using the talents of current lyricists and creatives. Roger would have applauded the Lyric Opera's presentation of "The Magic Flute." I encourage the steps the Lyric is taking to bring opera to a wider audience, including the Lyric Unlimited Committee, which has worked with neighborhoods groups and schools in Chicago.