Egerházi reinterprets the famous opera for ballet
The Magic Flute is an almost universally known opera, in two acts, with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. Since its premiere in the 18th century, it has become one of the most beloved works of opera and is presently the fourth-most frequently performed opera in the world. To turn such a popular work into a new ballet is an extremely challenging task.
To meet that challenge, Hungarian choreographer (and artistic director of the South Bohemian Theater Ballet) Attila Egerházi had to re-imagine one of opera’s greatest hits and come up with some unusual creative solutions. The resulting contemporary ballet piece, also titled The Magic Flute, will premiere at the Estates Theater Sunday, April 7.
The Magic Flute draws you into a world of suspended reality where a flute has the power to change the hearts of men. It tells a charming and fantastic story in which hatred is miraculously overcome by wisdom, strength and beauty. The opera is noted for its prominent Masonic elements – both Mozart and Shikaneder were Masons and lodge brothers – and its characters have become iconic dramatic symbols: Many people know, or at least have heard of, The Queen of the Night, Sarastro, Tamino, Pamina, Papageno and Papagena.
Defining the line between the original opera and an all-new contemporary ballet provided the biggest challenge for the creators, simply because the work is so well-known. Arias from The Magic Flute have been pilfered for countless movies and commercials, and its story has been parsed by generations of scholars.
“I used Mozart’s magical world of music together with Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for my own artistic vision,” Egerházi says. “The most interesting and challenging thing in my choreographic work was how to introduce opera in a different way, with a stylized, exclusively dance dictionary. Dreams of the main protagonists reflect all the important life-truths: love, desire, friendship, courage, perseverance, your relationship to yourself and to others. One has to win over one’s own ignorance and the dark side of oneself. What helps in this fight is love – in all its forms. Actually, I didn’t want to create a ballet that would only illustrate the opera. I wanted my dance to tell the story.”
Egerházi recalls that the initial impulse to stage the ballet came from Antonín Schneider, director of the ensemble company Balet Praha Junior, made up of students and young alumni of the Dance Center Prague – Conservatory.
“This offer impressed me, and I started to think about the ballet to such wonderful and magical music,” he says. “So far, I have had the best experience with the young dancers from the ensemble. Working with them brings me considerable, extensive and new experience. I learn how to express my ideas, which movement vocabulary to use, how to choose an appropriate method of communication to explain various themes and relationships, how to maximize the quality of the results. In comparison with my work with adult professionals, I don’t see this collaboration as limiting at all, and I have really enjoyed it.”
Egerházi had already created successful dance productions based on music by Tchaikovsky, Bizet, Ravel, Bartók – and of course Mozart. That experience virtually ensures the music of The Magic Flute will be interpreted and visualized in a sensitive and dignified manner. In addition, translating the famous story into a different art form will enable audiences to view it from a fresh perspective. This innovative production, aimed at a family audience, seems destined to become a favorite attraction of children and adults alike.