The Magic Flute

Mozart's last two operas, written concurrently in 1791, couldn't be more different. La clemenza di Tito is a throwback to the rigid conventions of baroque opera of decades earlier—a stately sequence of formally cut (but profoundly beautiful) arias based on a 57-year-old libretto that had already been set by dozens of composers. The Magic Flute, on the other hand, is, comparatively, a glorious mess. One step away from a revue, this fairy-tale opera offers a bit of everything, from music-box tunes to Mozart's most over-the-top virtuoso arias to liturgical chorales that are, as George Bernard Shaw put it, "the only music yet written that would not sound out of place in the mouth of God." Slapstick and magic rub up against the most high-minded Age-of-Reason sentiments of equality and brotherhood. There's even a little politics, if you read the tyrannical Queen of the Night as an allegory of the reactionary empress Maria Theresa. Since it's a fantasy, you can do anything you want with it; teaser videos of Seattle Opera's production, opening tonight, show that costume designer Zandra Rhodes is going nuts. GAVIN BORCHERT [See Gavin's review.]

Sat., May 7, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., May 8, 2 p.m.; Wed., May 11, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., May 13, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., May 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., May 15, 2 p.m.; Wed., May 18, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., May 20, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 7:30 p.m., 2011

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