David Stern, artistic director of the Israeli Opera, is back in town to lead the new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute next week. Friday afternoon, as he relaxes after the rehearsal in a Tel Aviv street café, Stern talks about Mozart’s piece. “One can speak about Freemasons or whatever, but Mozart’s Magic Flute is about looking for light,” he explains. ”This is the Age of Enlightenment and the man’s understanding of his presence in this world. This is about the inner glow; the colors of The Magic Flute are warm and clear. The heart is glowing, man is the center of this planet, and he is determined to make his life better. Light is everything, and the contrast between light and dark is what makes us live; Mozart had a greatest sensitivity to such things. All the middle voices – the clarinet part, the viola part – are what The Magic Flute is about. You have the old world – Sarastro is very low and the Queen of the Night is very high; but the new world – Tamino and Pamina – are middle voices. That’s what is so beautiful about this opera. I conducted it many times, but I’m always moved by this picture – the dark frame with warm colors coming out more and more strong.
The more the piece goes, the clearer these inner voices become, until they finally finish in a beautiful new world.”
Stern describes the production as “very innocent and updated.” He goes on to explain that when Mozart wrote the opera, “it meant to be something fun for a wider public with a lot of gags. The current production takes place in a child’s bedroom, with no temples or Masonic symbols around but with a lot of toys. Sarastro comes out in the very beginning as the grandfather of the three boys, and the Queen of the Night is their nanny. Everything is seen through their eyes, everything is marveled.” And he sums up: “The important thing is that the production allows the music to come through, and it makes me happy.”
The cast is mixed between Israelis and international artists in accordance with the Israeli Opera’s line – to have more and more Israelis every season. “I see this is a very important moment. Hila Baggio is going to be a terrific Pamina, and Guy Mannheim is a perfect Papageno; his presence on stage is great,” he says.
For Stern, this is his third season as the artistic director of the Israeli Opera, but he feels that this is in fact his first season “because I’m here for more than just 10 minutes. On the two previous seasons I was switching between Israeli Opera and my Swiss Opera, which was too much.” He admits that for him, deciding between the two was not a hard choice. “I love working in this house with its great atmosphere. I want to develop the programming, which is going in this direction anyway, and to enhance the things that are being done already, such as enforcement of the young singers’ program and participating in fundraising projects, which allow us to do what we want to.”
Speaking of the programming, Stern says that next season “we’ll be doing Britten and The Passenger by Weinberg, as well as bringing back Wozek. I want to develop the Baroque repertoire too, although the hall’s acoustics are not so good for this music, so I have to see how I manage it first. And, of course, we will continue to do Verdis and Puccinis, because every opera house has to do this great music. Yet to perform only this would be too bad, and for our public this is not enough. And if in the past The Israeli Opera presented only one daring production a season, now there will be more.”
The Magic Flute runs between May 13 – 27. Additional activities: Towards Opening: May 7 at 11 a.m. Before the show backstage tours: May 17 (6:45 p.m), 19 (6:45 p.m), 21 (7:15 p.m.) and 24 (6:45 p.m.).
Opera Talkback: May 14, 17, 18 and 19.
For more information: http://www.israelopera.co.il. For reservations: (03) 692- 7777
By MAXIM REIDER