Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Magic Flute

The Blood Moon, 24 x 30", oil on canvas
The Queen of the Night and Pamina, Act II, The Magic Flute
Another commission completed this past season was the scenic artwork used for the New Orleans Opera's production of Mozart's The Magic Flute. This large oil painting was done for a climactic scene in the second act between Pamina and her wicked mother, the Queen of the Night. I painted a blood moon in a smoky, star-filled sky as a backdrop for this evil character in the opera but didn't know what her costume would look like. I was thrilled when I saw the coloratura soprano in costume - a blood red/orange robe!  

Another thrilling part of this experience for me was performing in the orchestra pit, while my paintings were being projected forty feet wide up on stage, just above where I was sitting! 

Here are a few more of the eleven paintings I did for The Magic Flute, along with a photograph from the performance. 
The Magic Forest, 12 x 16", watercolor, and ink
Papageno and Tamino in the magic forest, Act I
In this painting, I wanted to capture the magic of the very first time we hear Papageno playing his flute. The forest is painted in browns and sepias, plus a small amount of green, with the color to be found in the small orbs of light scattered throughout. They represent the sound and color of the flute.

The Three Temples: Nature, Wisdom and Reason, 22x30", watercolor
Tamino on the steps of the three temples
The scene with these three temples are the beginning of Prince Tamino's trials. My challenge here was to figure out how to paint temples! One day after a rehearsal, we drove past one of New Orleans' historic landmarks, The Greenwood Cemetary, and I found my temples! The City of The Dead, as we locals call it, is an astonishing collection of architectural wonders, filled with small temples. These three are my favorites. 

The gate of the Temple of Wisdom is part of a gate by Enrique Alvarez found in City Park, with the center being a part of the corn stalk fence found in my neighborhood, the Garden District. 

The Temple of Wisdom is for the musicians, the wisest people I know. A bust of Mozart crowns the roof of the building and just below that is a banner from the front page of the original 1793 libretto of The Magic Flute. The gate is a sunburst motif representing the heat of performance and creative fire. At the base of the gate are a variety of musical symbols - if you know what they mean, you may enter into the temple of Wisdom!

The gate of the Temple of Reason is from a wonderful house in my neighborhood at the corner of Seventh and Prytania Streets. I have changed much of the design of the gate however, adding mathematical and masonic symbols to mirror the kind of symbolism Mozart and his librettist  Emanuel Schikaneder used throughout the opera.

Papageno's Suicide Tree, 22x30", watercolor
                    Papageno and his attempted suicide, Act II
I searched everywhere for the perfect live oak tree for this scene. It wasn't until I finished playing a concert in City Park did I finally see it. As I was walking out to my car, there it was, illuminated in the dark autumn night - expressing everything I wanted to have in Papageno's suicide scene. In the production, all they had to do was fly in a noose for the scene to become reality.

Earth Fire, 20 x 24", oil on canvas
Tamino and Pamina in The Trial by Fire, Act II
The inspiration for this scene came from the volcanic eruptions in Iceland last summer. They were jaw dropping scenes of power and unpredictability, two elements I wanted to capture in this moment between the two principal characters of the opera, Prince Tamino and Pamina, their Trial by Fire. The lighting director used his prodigious skills to create a mesmerizing scene.

Sarastro's Palace, 22x30", watercolor
Sarastro's Palace at Night
Sarastro's Palace with Sunburst
  Sarastro's Palace was a real challenge for me. I had no palace here in New Orleans (!) so I searched everywhere and finally found images of some wonderful palaces in Turkey and Iran which I combined to create this. I added a number of hieroglyphics with hidden meanings (among them, music and flute!) along with many masonic symbols as well. The lighting director, Don Darnutzer, was once again a wizard with his lighting techniques and created some wonderfully different looks with my painting.

The artist gets a stage bow, between the Queen and Papageno
Patti on the steps of her Palace!
After the final rehearsal, my husband (who plays timpani in the orchestra and took the majority of these photographs) shot this picture of me sitting atop the steps of Sarastro's Palace. The Magic Flute was an amazing experience for me, filled with music by my favorite composer and featuring my favorite instrument!

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