ABU DHABI // The final touches were put to the Abu Dhabi Festival production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute on Friday evening at a final dress rehearsal at Emirates Palace.
With less than 24 hours remaining before the raising of the curtain, a handful of spectators in the audience watched as The Budapest Festival Orchestra performed its rendition of Mozart’s production, in preparation for the opening performance on Saturday night.
Conductor Ivan Fischer was refining the final details of the performance, down to the orchestra’s final notes and the sequence of bows from the opera’s singers and actors.
“It was really good to have a rehearsal and see the hall. You need to feel it,” said Barbara Kozelj from Slovenia, the Amsterdam-based singer who plays one of The Magic Flute’s “three ladies”.
“We are really looking forward it,” she said.
Described as one of Mozart’’s masterpieces, the opera, which dates back to 1791, incorporates themes of fantasy, adventure, romance and magic.
“For us, it comes across like a fairy tale,” said Hanno Müller-Brachmann, who plays the part of Papageno.
Müller-Brachmann, a singer and professor of classical music, puts The Magic Flute in the same category as One Thousand and One Nights and Sinbad the Sailor, describing it as a great introduction to the genre, but also an opera that continues to offer something to aficionados.
“It’s a centrepiece of the repertoire. In Germany, it’s the most-played opera,” he said. “For many kids, it’s their first opera. And when you grow up it doesn’t get boring because you can go deeper into its structure.
“It’s a story of a way for humans to think about how they can develop to become a better human being,” he said. “Its about the good against the bad.”
“With its wonderful music, it can take you in many directions,” Kozelj said. It’s very direct to the hearts and minds of people.”
Adding to the production’s accessibility to a broad audience, actors will speak their lines in English, while the singers will perform the arias in German, with English supertitles on a large screen.
“It really speaks to everyone. If anyone is hesitant, this is a great way to meet the opera,” Kozelj said.
Performing for a multinational audience in Abu Dhabi does not change the way the cast prepares.
“It’s about being in the hall and experiencing the acoustics and putting it all together,” she said. “Of course we are curious about the audience. I am curious to see how it will be received.”
“For us it’s about Mozart,” Müller-Brachmann said.
The leading duo described the The Budapest Festival Orchestra as “one of the best orchestras in the world”.
Mirroring what will be a multinational audience, they said The Magic Flute’s performers come from all over the world, including France, Holland, Brazil, South Africa, Italy and Hungary.
Both singers arrived in the UAE on Thursday and hoped to visit some local sights, like the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
“It feel a little unreal to be here, It needs to sink in. It’s such a different place,” Kozelj said.
The Budapest Festival Orchestra performs The Magic Flute on Monday at Emirates Palace. The performances begin at 8pm, and tickets start at Dh125.