Group to Perform 'Magic Flute' in Berlin Subway

An underground performance of Mozart's The Magic Flute is set to take place this weekend in a new subway station beneath the Reichstag.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

On any given night, people in Berlin have a choice between three different opera houses. Tonight in the German capital, there's an opera by Wagner, another by Kurt Weill, and a ballet performance at the third. Or you could head underground to a new stage. That's where a month-long run of Mozart's "Magic Flute" premieres in the as-yet-unused subway station of the German parliament.

Independent producer Thomas Marzahl reports from Berlin.

THOMAS MARZAHL: Opera purists beware. This is not your grandfather's "Magic Flute." Starting with the singing and dancing policeman, the three ladies who are actually subway cleaning staff, and the three boys in low rise jeans on skateboards. And then there's the cavernous venue: the new parliament station. Director Christoph Hagel says he had the inspiration years ago at a photo booth on Berlin's subway or U-Bahn.

Mr. CHRISTOPH HAGEL (Director): I saw a young man taking out a picture which was taken some hours before by a girl, I suppose. He looked very long at this little picture and he put it in his pocket and went away. This gave me the idea to do the "Magic Flute" in an U-Bahn station because the magical stuff is the same way. A prince gets a picture of a girl, where he falls in love with this picture and tries to find this girl.

MARZAHL: All the elements of one of Mozart's most popular operas are here -they're just adapted to the setting. We're in a subway station so a fearsome-looking train instead of a dragon chases Prince Tamino. And the bird catcher Papageno becomes an unemployed slacker in a baseball cap. American Soprano Darleen Dobisch, who plays the Queen of the Night, explains.

Ms. DARLEEN DOBISCH (Soprano): Although, for example, Papageno is shown as a punk, it is still this - the characteristics that Papageno has as a person, I think they are being respected and I think they are being even more brought out because it's done in a more modern theme, what we can connect to in today's world.

(Soundbite of opera, "Magic Flute")

MARZAHL: As the final notes of Dobisch singing her aria echo through the station, the queen jumps onto a moving train. The audience tonight won't be so lucky. There's no service here until 2009. But most guests will probably come by limo anyway.

For NPR News, I'm Thomas Marzahl in Berlin.

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