The pied puppetry of Mozart

The Magic Flute features the exploits of a prince and his feathered friend, who fight a wicked queen to rescue the prince’s lady love.  

This weekend, The Magic Flute, Mozart’s last opera on stage, will transport kids to a land of fairytales. The opera tells the tale of a prince, a damsel in distress and dangerous dragons along with soulful music and handcrafted puppets. The Magic Flute premiered in 1791 to such great success that it was staged a 100 times that year. Now, the performance comes to Mumbai thanks to the Iris Creative Education, which will bring alive the exploits of a prince and his feathered friend, who fight a wicked queen to rescue the prince’s lady love.

Charu Prasad, who saw the piece in Vienna last year, thought it would be a unique way to introduce kids to puppetry as well as Western classical music. Prasad heads the centre that uses puppetry, eurythmy (where body movements are in sync with the rhythm of the spoken word) and creative mathematics to educate and entertain children. Since the production uses singspiel, a style that alternates between songs and dialogues, Prasad felt it would be most ideal for little ones.

The team at Iris Creative Education devised the Indian adaptation of the opera over the course of three months. They started off by tweaking the original script and modifying it to the sensibilities of Indian kids. Also, while the original piece had 13 songs, they decided to retain only four. “Our children are not very familiar with Western classical music,” says Prasad, adding that little ones have a limited attention span. “So, we decided to incorporate more dialogues.” The team has handcrafted the puppets and ensured that the objects didn’t have any facial features. “If we had drawn facial expressions on the puppets, those features would have become static. The blank faces are a blank canvas for the kids to use their imagination and think about the puppets’ emotions.”

The play’s major highlights are the four musical pieces from the original opera, including the bird-catcher ‘Papageno’s Aria’ and the ‘Queen of Nights Aria’. Prasad mentions that hitting the right notes in the songs was a Herculean task for her team. “We spent the maximum time recording the music as we had to practise a lot. ‘Queen of Nights Aria’ has the highest notes possible in classical music. It was a challenge to put that together along with the Papageno, as these are difficult numbers.”

What made it even more difficult is that the piece features 13 characters. “Ten artistes have given their voice-overs. There had to be perfect co-ordination between all,” says Prasad. “In theatre, you are dealing with actors who enact a character’s journey, but in puppetry you are dealing with the puppet as well as the artiste who is lending his or her voice to it. Both should be in sync with the script. The Magic Flute is an opera-style puppet play that is a perfect combination of music, hand work and theatre.”

Prasad, who is already working on her next project — an interactive piece based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel The Treasure Island — is hopeful that the play will enable children to appreciate Western classical music and help them learn about puppetry and opera. “Our kids are usually exposed only to Rajasthani puppets or shadow puppets; they are not familiar with any other form. I hope that they take away something from this piece and use it to express themselves.”

The Magic Flute will be staged at the Canvas Laugh Club in Palladium, Lower Parel, at 2 p.m. today. Details on

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 9:01:41 PM |

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