Inside the World of ‘The Magic Flute’
TORONTO—Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” is one of those rare operas that appeals to all ages—children and adults alike. It’s an opera with unforgettable tunes, memorable characters, and a fascinating plot that goes to the heart of the human journey—the search for self-betterment.
“Mozart is in my opinion the master of opera in the sense that he is intuitive, he’s dramatic, he can have tears one moment and laughter another,” says Canadian soprano Jacqueline Woodley, who is performing in the Canadian Opera Company’s (COC) production of “The Magic Flute ” this winter.
“The music can be so elegant and so simple and yet other times full of fireworks, like the ‘Queen of the Night’ aria. I think this opera really does have all of those elements, which makes for a well-rounded evening of music,” she says.
This season, Woodley is returning to the colourful role of Papagena, the true love the earthy Papageno has been looking for throughout the opera.
“It’s always fun to play Papagena,” says the singer, who first performed it on the COC stage with the Ensemble Studio in 2011.
“I think both Papagena and Papageno are characters that are very of the moment. They don’t worry about what’s to come, they just do what they have to do in the moment.”
Woodley finds similarities to her own life, noting she and her husband (baritone Julien Patenaude, who has sung the role of Papageno in the past) also have a simple, no-artifice approach to leading their lives.
The Appeal of ‘The Magic Flute’
There are many layers to this opera. Woodley says she has shown YouTube videos of the opera to her 3-year-old son. He was mesmerized by it and even started singing along to the music.
“You can enjoy it on the surface level, but you can also enjoy the many layers that it has too. A lot of people say it’s a bit Shakespearian because you can delve into it as far as you want to and you’ll still be able to learn and enjoy it,” says Woodley.
“The Magic Flute” can seem dated, but I also think it’s quite modern,” she said, adding that underneath the magic and fantasy of the opera, there are basic human truths we can learn from.
“There is the question of this human journey that we go on—you have to question your own existence in order to grow and become enlightened, so to speak. I think that’s something that’s very human.”
The opera has several elements of surprise and questioning, including how do define good and evil, with the overarching message in the end being one of forgiveness, she says. “I think that’s also timeless.”
Another unique aspect of the opera is that it features children’s voices—three little boys (the Knaben) that guide the characters in their journey. It’s beautiful, simple, and there is a special innocence in having children to guide the characters, says Woodley.
In the opera world, singers have to go through their own journey of self-betterment, constantly working at both personal and professional improvement.
Woodley notes that in this job, one is always learning, there is always something to change and improve. There’s no right answer and there are many paths that lead to the finished product—and even then one continues to pick something apart.
“It can be hard, it’s very humbling. You’re constantly looking at your blemishes and trying to make them better. But there’s something very fulfilling about that. It’s not just the same grind every day,” she says.
Woodley knows there are many other things she could be doing, but this is something that she truly loves, and it’s the case for most people in the profession.
“There’s something about people coming together, doing something that they enjoy doing, and trying to make as good of a product as possible,” she says. “There’s something very inspiring about that.”
The Canadian Opera Company’s production of “The Magic Flute” runs Jan. 19 – Feb. 24 at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. For more details, visit: www.coc.ca