Just because there s no holiday tree outside the Met this season doesn't mean the Grinch has gotten his way. The Lincoln Center construction means there's no room for the annual giant blue spruce but thanks to the return of Julie Taymor's eye popping production of The Magic Flute, and several other December highlights, the Met is still the place to celebrate the holiday season.
The company's series of special holiday matinees for families launched two years ago with Taymor's imaginaÔ_tive vision for Mozart. Her abridged English-language version became an instant hit with audiences of all ages. Taymor's highly theatrical staging of this enduring masterpiece will be brought to life this month by an international ensemble of rising stars and company veterans, conducted by Asher Fisch. Featuring the director's trademark puppets and masks, this Magic Flute opens up a whole new world of visual fantasy that gives Mozart's familiar characters an unexpected and strikingly beautiful new identity. "It's a story of young people and their journey through danger and fantasy and wildness," Taymor says. "It's a coming-of-age story." Children will enjoy it as a charming and romantic fairy tale. For adults, it's a highly philosophical work of art that raises fundamental questions about life and humanity.
Taymor's costumes and puppets in particular have captured the imaginaÔ_tion of young audience members. The puppets, which include flocks of birds and the beloved dancing bears, are animated by a group of 20 dancers. "The birds and the bears and the dragon all feature light moving through fabric," director-designer Taymor says of her approach to creating their look. "It's almost like Japanese kites, as opposed to the heavier kind of puppetry that's more like stuffed animals. This is much more light and airy, and that comes from the notion of air coming through the flute itself."
Taymor's innovative stagecraft has inspired artisans beyond the world of opera. The newly renovated Met Opera Shop will offer a collection of children's toys based on the opera's design. Hand- and finger-puppets of some of the characters will be availÔ_able for sale early next year. And for anyone looking for the ideal holiday gift for an opera lover : or a kid : there's a jigsaw puzzle of a stunning production photo featuring the bird-catcher Papageno.
As one of the most popular and frequently performed operas of all time, The Magic Flute has always occupied a special place in the repertoire. But it's certainly not the only way to catch the holiday spirit at the Met this year.
There's also a new production of Puccini's La Rondine, which premieres with a gala perforÔ_mance on New Year's Eve. The least known of the composer's mature works, La Rondine is set in Paris and tells the story of a kept woman who leaves her secure existence behind and sets out to find true love. Inspired by Viennese operetta and with echoes of Verdi's La Traviata and Puccini's own La Bohme, the opera features some of the composer's most gorgeous music.
Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna star in a production by Nicolas JoêŠl's that places the action in the 1920s. Stunning art-deco sets and costumes and a ravishing score by the world's most popular opera composer make this La Rondine an unforgettable way to ring in the New Year in style.
For tickets and information, visit the The Metropolitan Opera.