Ah, Die Zauberflöte, how many other designers have tackled this opera, and how to come up with something different? The natural inclination is to harken back to that Baroque era for icons, colors and inspiration or take inspiration from artifacts of the original promotion of the opera itself.
The opera is to be performed at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie in a production by Opera Studio students of Duquesne University. Each year they perform a full-stage Mozart opera; last year they performed La Finta Giardiniera, or “The False Gardener”, the typical silly, frothy baroque opera with lovely music, complicated costumes and very little plot. I had taken the Baroque inspiration last year when I designed that post card, using an image I’d found on a hand-painted reproduction of a baroque plate.
But The Magic Flute is something different from most of Mozart’s other operas, full of symbolism and iconography. On the surface it seems like a series of unrelated scenes and events, yet a careful reading reveals an allegory of the main couple, Tamino and Pamina, assisted by a host of others, learning and growing by trials given them by authority figures and thereby maturing as if from childhood into responsible, rational adults. Their story symbolizes the parallel enlightenment of mankind.
It’s the seeming chaos of the story at the beginning that I had always remembered, and that was what I wanted to illustrate. I did one design in heavy gothic blackletter text on a parchment background, hoping to lighten things up with little Renaissance flourishes and dividers that included animals and little faces, but it was just too heavy. The design shown was one of my first ideas, colors and all.
I really like the feel of the organic shapes I see used in design today, almost like the doodles I used to do with all sorts of swirls and paisley shapes. The shape I’ve used in silhouette was what got me started because it gave me the feeling of a garden, a growing thing, as it had always seemed to me that the story began in an allegorical Garden of Eden. The other items represent my impression of things I remembered from the story.
I’m really glad to be able to go with this more abstract design rather than the more predictable one!