Truth: Cheeky cultural mash-ups make for some truly fertile and imaginative ground.
Think knitting skateboarders or cello-playing clowns or people who create one thing while performing in an entirely different discipline.
And while fresh pairings are forever forming, two cultural titans have danced the mash-up mamba before. We're talking opera and movies here, and we're thinking, while talking, about "Amadeus" and "Topsy Turvy" and the dozens of films that have drawn, with gusto, from operatic themes.
But the LA Opera's presentation of Mozart's "The Magic Flute," which debuts at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Saturday, Nov. 23, is not that, at all. It couldn't be more not-that-y if it tried, but here's what it is: Something very, very new.
Picture an opera, live, before your eyes, that's staged as a silent film of sorts. Visualize an image-packed backscreen, animations galore, old-timey intertitles, and costumes and make-up that reflect the heyday of jumpy frames, sped-up scenes, and overly wide-eyed acting.
And speaking of acting? This iteration of the famed opera features the singers interacting with the animations on the screen as well as each other. It's not easy to "grab" a dog's leash, that is actually a moving drawing, while standing in the right spot, in front of the screen, while octaving the heck out of an aria.
You try it.
Now you're likely picturing "Anchors Aweigh," where Gene Kelly takes a tap-toe spin with Jerry the mouse, or even "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" Actors have engaged with animated characters in the past, indeed, but, again, this "Flute" is playing a whole new song, as it is happening live, on stage, with a lot of surreal stuff going down, in real time.
And can we pause to pay homage to this particular story? "Magic" is in the title, but that wasn't just smart, attention-getting naming on Herr Mozart's crafty part. It's rife with rampant weirdness, spirits, love, and, yes, a certain enchanted instrument.
If ever an opera was ripe for a diabolically entertaining change-up, it's this one. "The Magic Flute" has the propensity to be both primly proper or fabulously freaky. (Guess which one the LA Opera's take sides on.)
The London-based theatre group 1927 is behind the whimsy makery, and the Minnesota Opera is a co-presenter. It's sung in German, with English subtitles on display. And the opera-meets-silent-films runs for select nights through late November and December.