Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jun Kaneko and The Magic Flute

A new production of Mozart's The Magic Flute is opening this Wednesday at the San Francisco Opera.

The production has been designed by the 70-year-old Japanese, Omaha-based artist Jun Kaneko (click here for some great drawings at his website detailing the production).

Kuneko is best known for his work in monumentally scaled ceramics, and in conjunction with this new production a pair of colorful heads have been plopped down on Van Ness Avenue in front of the Opera House until November by the Rena Bransten gallery and the San Francisco Art Commission. The pieces look great but the bases they are sitting on couldn't be uglier. Come on, SF Art Commission, you can do better than this.

The new Magic Flute sets are digital projections that are constantly changing, which some people are going to love and others hate. The German original is being given in a new English translation by SF Opera's General Director David Gockley and from what I have heard, it sounds pretty good. I tend to be a purist about translating operas out of their original languages, but German to English works just fine. It's Italian and the other Romance languages translated into English that usually sound absurd.

I have been wandering around rehearsals of this new production literally blind, encased in the wild animal costume above, twirling across the stage while trying not to fall into the orchestra pit. Even though I am not a big fan of the opera itself, the music is some of the best Mozart ever wrote, and the 31-year-old Scottish conductor Rory Macdonald is a real find. Twirling to his beat has been a pleasure.

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