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FRANCES STARK | "The Magic Flute" premiere at LACMA


Premiering at LACMA, Frances Stark’s newest work, The Magic Flute (2017), is a 110-minute film adaptation of the popular 1791 opera by composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and librettist Emanuel Schikaneder about a prince and a bird catcher who cross paths and endure various tricks and trials in search of love. The vocalists—the defining characteristic of the genre—have been substituted with soloists who play the vocal melodies, demanding close viewing, reading, and listening. The lyrics have also been updated through Stark’s creation of an amalgam libretto derived from the study of numerous translations that were then adapted to both fit the instrumental melodies and speak to a contemporary audience. Stark says of the film: “I’m trying to make The Magic Flute unfold for people very directly and joyously; it isn’t about clever redressing or anything, it’s really about the bare bones of the opera having the capacity to engage you, the accessibility of the opera was based on its high-low conceit.”

For the project Stark collaborated with a set of people from disparate parts of the music world. Conductor Danko Drusko, a PhD student at the time of the production, adapted the entirety of Mozart’s score. He also oversaw each rehearsal and conducted the players during each recording session. The legendary producer and arranger H.B. Barnum recorded and mixed the music; cellist and mezzo-soprano instructor Ameena Maria Khawaja organized the audition and the student players throughout the entire process; and percussionist and film composer Greg Ellis added rhythmic effects and finalized the soundtrack. The music in the film is performed by a group of young musicians (ages 10 to 19 years old) who auditioned for the project and came together to form a string section orchestra and a collection of solo instrumentalists.