(Previous part here.)
So what does this all add up to?
The take on the opera offered by this production makes sense. I am happy to read this as a sort of fairy tale about temptation – it works on that level.
And the musical performances aren’t bad at all. Kate Ladner as Blonde sounds rather nice – “Durch Zärtlichkeit” had a really enjoyable ease to it. Pedrillo (I think Heinz Göhrig, but I no longer have the DVD and I may have switched some names around) is also pleasant with only a few bumps here and there. Matthias Klink’s Belmonte is likewise easy on the ears.
But the thing is, I got so involved in trying to work out what the hell was going on that I sometimes forgot about the music. Probably if I watched it again having thought through it once already it would be easier – but this is the question, isn’t it. Given that this is theater, and intended to be performed and experienced live, having a production that has so many complicated little details could be seen as a problem. On the other hand, this is a DVD, not a live production, and so one is indeed free to watch it as many times as it takes to get a handle on it.
Now. To return to a point that I may appear to have attempted to bury amid a discussion of the general concept. What about the chicken suit? Blonde wears it during “welche wonne” in Act II. She hands Pedrillo2 an egg. There is a bevy of little children in little chicken suits prancing about. Death enters. The chicks appear to die. But do they? Everyone perks back up again when P1 appears in a black bird costume. (Not a blackbird costume, just a parallel to Blonde’s that’s black.) And he then launches into “Frisch zum Kampfe.” There is a line in this about how only a “feiger Tropf” is afraid (lit. a cowardly drip, with ‘drip’ in the colloquial sense of ‘chump’) but the subtitles translate this as “chicken” which is as close as we are going to get, I think, to an explanation of the chicken suits. Blonde sings this from the little stage in the back, and something about the whole sequence suggests to me that this is about Pedrillo feeling afraid that he will be unable to protect his girl, with “Frisch zum Kampfe” as his assertion to himself that he can. Either that or this production is the victim of an attempted colonization by Die Zauberflöte.