A Novice's Guide to Opera : : The Magic Flute

I do love the chance to spruce up and pretend I’m a civilised human being, and the Opera is the perfect place to indulge that whim!


The NZ Opera’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is on at the Aotea Centre for intermittent dates until the 26th June. It was my first Opera ever; I attended opening night, and it was spectacular!


The Opera always seems like such a fancy form of entertainment; filled with people in suits, pince-nez, and fur shawls, sipping champagne and pretending they understand Italian. The Magic Flute is (blessedly) in English with subtitles, and whilst there were certainly many people in suits and gowns, I certainly couldn’t call the subject matter high-class.


Magic Flute FDR24

Photography by Marty Melville


The Magic Flute is a fairy tale about how love overcomes obstacles and triumphs in the face of despair.  It was filled not only with protracted declarations of love, but plenty of gags that in any other form of entertainment would be called “dick jokes.” Given that it was written in 1791, the rampant sexism within the lyrics surpassed offensive and hit absurdist, and was treated with a healthy dose of irony by cast and audience alike.


NZ Opera’s production was brilliant. The Orchestra was flawless (so good I sometimes forgot I was listening to a live production), the set design was incredible; special mention must go to the puppets created by John Verryt, and the singers, were, of course, outstanding. Samuel Dundas as Papageno was the audience’s favourite, and I was left in awe of Ruth Jenkins-Robertsson as the Queen of Night. Everyone in the cast was extraordinary, and the whole production was slick and meticulously detailed.


Magic Flute FDR127

Photography by Marty Melville


There was a refreshing amount of whimsy and sense of magic in this production; it didn’t take itself too seriously, and that allowed the audience to suspend their disbelief and enjoy the lighthearted story.


The Opera can be an expensive night out, but tickets range from $45 to $190, so there are slightly more accessible options.  If you have the spare cash, I’d recommend getting a seat where you can see the orchestra pit at the front of the stage, as I couldn’t see the musicians or conductor easily in the stalls, and would have liked to be able to appreciate them more.


I would definitely suggest it as a first excursion into the world of Opera, I found it easily understandable with no prior knowledge, and easy to follow along with the story.


It was a highly enjoyable night, and a great excuse to dress up and see masters at their craft. I would thoroughly recommend it!


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