Sarastro’s Repentance: One Dramaturg’s Advice on The Magic Flute

Traditionally, the scholar of dramatic literature and the director of plays (or the stage director of an opera) are opposed figures. Despite common passions, they have different goals, methods, and materials. In the end, a scholar’s polished critical argument and a director’s persuasive theatrical performance are held to be two decidedly different things. But a dramaturg (a kind of in-house scholarly advisor to a theater or opera company) attempts to be a scholar of dramatic literature and theatrical history and, at the same time, a canny and practical advisor to the artistic team of an actual stage production. A dramaturg attempts to crisscross the theory-practice boundary, mediating between the extended reasoning engendered in the study and the evanescent impressions engendered by a performance. So, being a dramaturg and having written a scholarly book on The Magic Flute, I propose to answer my own book-length scholarship with its antinomy, a short statement of practical advice for a (hypothetical) production of Mozart’s last, great opera.

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