Studio Notes on THE MAGIC FLUTE - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wolfie, baby:

I checked out your show, THE MAGIC FLUTE. First of all, the music -- terrific. I think the soundtrack is going to be a smash.

Glad to see you're getting back to comedy. I mean, I loved Don G as much as anyone, but in a recession people want to laugh. There just isn't an audience for tragedy outside of HBO.

I gotta say, though, the plot could use some strengthening. Characters, too.

So basically you've got this prince, Tamino. When we meet him he's terrified by a big serpent. Three women kill the serpent, then run off. Really? Normally wouldn't you want to introduce your hero doing something heroic? Especially since the Queen of the Night immediately selects him to go rescue her daughter Pamina.

In fact, he never does anything heroic, ever. He spends the rest of the movie either following orders (the Queen's, Sarastro's -- he obeys whoever talked to him last!), standing around stoically ignoring his girl, or defeating enemies with the magic flute. He's never in any real jeopardy. He has the magic flute, which protects him from everything. But more importantly, the supposed villain he's been sent to rescue Pamina from, Sarastro, turns out to be a philosopher who immediately says Tamino is destined to wind up with Pamina, Tamino just has to go through a formal test which he's fated to ace. So he's reactive, not proactive, and there's never any real suspense or jeopardy.

The obvious fix here is to make Sarastro not such a great guy. In a lot of fables the villain suspects he can't defeat the hero, but offers him the girl anyway, subject to completing an impossible quest. If Sarastro doesn't really want to lose Pamina, he could send Tamino to defeat some serious boss baddie, not realizing that Tamino has the magic flute. Which, obviously, shouldn't neutralize every danger or it's all too easy. So then it's a surprise to him -- and us -- when Tamino survives the test.

Would be a nice beat if Tamino, who's been dismissing Papageno all along, fails at one point and it's Papageno who saves him, Sam Gamgee-style.

I couldn't help thinking there's a lost opportunity between Sarastro and the Q of the N. She says he stole the sun from her. He says she's trying to steal the sun. She wants Pamina to kill him. They really sound like a bickering couple. What if they're exes? It would add a level to their relationship. And then, if you want, they can get together in the end, brought together by the other lovers (T/P, Papa/Papa).

Talk to Dickie Wagner, he's good with dysfunctional family relationships.

Let's talk about Papageno, the cowardly birdcatcher. He sure is fun, and you've given him a lot of story time. I know your librettist is going to play him. (Emanuel Schikaneder -- c'mon, what was his name "before"?) Wouldn't be the first time an actor gave himself all the juicy stuff to play.

But Papageno's story doesn't make much sense, either, does it? He does everything wrong. He doesn't keep his mouth shut when he's been warned to, turns down the invitation to join the secret brotherhood, does his best to womanize, and nearly kills himself for no good reason -- but he's rewarded with his perfect mate, Papagena, who promises to love him eternally -- why? What's he got to offer? Could she at least give us a sense what she sees in him? His sense of humor?

Can we maybe get a script doctor in to do a pass for the other characters? Sarastro is such a stiff.

I won't criticize Pamina. She's the whiny victim all the way through, but I realize you're writing in the 18th Century, so that will probably work for your demographic.


I'm totally loving the Q of the N. This role is sheer Oscar bait. She's such a crazy bitch but we love her. Can we see more of her?

The final battle between the Queen and Sarastro could be a lot of fun, if we have a sense Sarastro could lose. I wouldn't even mind if the lovers resolve it somehow, rather than you just giving the win to Sarastro. It really deflates the Q of the N if she's defeated in one shot. I mean, we're going to want to bring her back for the sequel, aren't we?

Hope these notes make sense. Can't wait to see how it shapes up in the next pass. I smell a hit!

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2 Comments:

I actually kind of agree? The Magic Flute is one of my favourite things ever but the story is just Masonic nonsense.

By Blogger Mark Slutsky, at 2:19 AM  

Like most operas, MAGIC FLUTE would make a great kung fu movie: a quest, a secret initiation with physical endurance trials, double-crosses and a virginal love interest.

But the flute would have to be a weapon.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 5:49 PM  

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