Mozart’s Magic Flute is a great first opera for children. In additional to magical instruments, it’s got a prince on a rescue mission, a funny but lonely birdcatcher, a high-strung Queen of the Night, wild animals and trials by water and fire.
To make it even more attractive, The Atlanta Opera and the Center for Puppetry Arts have teamed up on a hybrid production that features big, colorful puppets alongside live singers. Their hour-long adaptation will reach 17,000 children this season in schools and community venues around the metro area. In addition, four public matinee performances are taking place January 13 and 14 at the Center for Puppetry Arts.
Atlanta Opera audience development and education manager Jessica Kiger and mezzo-soprano Gina Perregrino tell GPB’s Sarah Zaslaw about singers operating the puppets and young viewers responding to the show.
On the puppets and learning to operate them
Jessica: All of the performers operate the puppets. They’re not marionettes; they are human-sized, larger-than-life puppets that really bring the show to life. We did a training exercise with Jon Ludwig, the artistic director of the Center for Puppetry Arts. Director Brenna Corner has had puppetry experience as well.
Gina: At one point I am a right hand for the queen; I am a right hand for Sarastro; I’m a bird throughout the show – not just Papagena. Working with Jon was kind of profound, because as an opera singer you don’t get to physicalize some of these things as you do in puppetry. To work together in the queen, as a three-person unit, to make her one physical unit, is quite amazing.
On students’ reactions and questions
Gina: It’s completely different stimuli each time. Some of the kids are so enthusiastic that if you ask a question that’s in the dialogue they’ll answer it right there in front of you, and you have to not be thrown off by that.
Jessica: When the trials happen and the fire comes out, the kids all say, “Fire! Oh, it’s fire!” And then the water will come out and they’ll say, “Water!” They’re so in tune with seeing the different layers of everything going on in the production.
Gina: A lot of them want to know how long we’ve been singing. One today asked if you have to go to college to be an opera singer. I like to add that if you like what you see, there are so many ways to be involved in the opera that aren’t just singing. If they love our costumes, they can work on being costume designers. We bring out our stage manager; if you like being back stage, you don’t have to be in the front lines all the time.