November 3, 2007

Reason does battle with obscurantism...

A good friend invited us along to see the current production of Mozart's The Magic Flute at the SF Opera last Wednesday. It was a total treat, visually gorgeous and bizarre and fun. (And the music was nothing to scoff at, either!)

But I found it interesting as a historical artifact, because I'd just posted this piece on the Enlightenment a few days before. And the Magic Flute is a fairy tale based on the ideas of the Enlightenment, as filtered down to the fairly commonplace minds of Mozart and Schikaneder. (Not commonplace musically, of course, but you might call them cracker-barrel philosophes, picking up ideas third-hand at the local Masonic lodge.)

In the opera's story, the Queen of the Night is the villainess, and she represents the Church. (Officially, I believe, she personifies obscurantism and superstition, but everybody knew who fit that description!) And her antagonist Sarastro is a sort of enlightened despot ruling a realm of reason and brotherhood. And the interesting thing to me is that, looking at our own time, the story didn't turn out as expected.

The realm of Sarastro is now looking rather old and shabby, and can no longer muster the will to defend itself against even the most obviously non-rational and murderous opponents. And the Queen by contrast is looking pretty cool. "....for grace can, where nature cannot. The world grows old, but the Church is ever young ..." --John Henry Newman

Magic Flute, Zarastro and his minions
Above, Sarastro, with his entourage. Pamina and Tamino stand on the pyramid. (pictures from the SF Opera web site)

I've posted two more pictures below...

The magical beasts were marvelous.

Magic Flute, mysterious animals

I just loved these guys...

Magic Flute, Zarastro's acolytes

Posted by John Weidner at November 3, 2007 4:36 PM
Weblog by John Weidner