The set, originally designed for the 92-93 season of the LA opera, and seen for the first time in SF, is build around a massive pyramid: Mozart was a Mason when he composed the Flute, and the pyramid is the Masonic symbol you’ll find for instance on your dollar bills. Scarfe’s pyramid turns and twists and opens up and breaks up into more pyramids, it’s a temple, it’s a mountain, it’s outside, it’s inside: who’d have thought it could be so modular? Plus, each face is a triangle, thus three sides, because everything the Magic Flute goes in three: the maids of the Queen of the Night, the angelic boys hovering above, the steps of initiation Tamino has to go through to be admitted in the brotherhood, the qualities required to be worthy of initiation (#1 is the ability to stay silent, as a Masonic loudmouth could have ended up persecuted at the time).
It’s refreshing to see Scarfe, so insolent with today’s powers that be, coming up with a set so reverent. Oh, sure, there are little inventions that would yank on Mozart’s chain, such as a menagerie of hilarious surrealist animals, half-penguin, half-turtle, or half-ostrich, half-giraffe, but Mozart seems to bring the positive, the joyful out of Scarfe. Mozart has a knack for improving karmic balance, which is exactly what the flute does in this opera.
Pictures courtesy of SF Opera/Terrence McCarthy. Above, Piotr Beczala, below Georg Zeppenfeld and Dina Kuznetsova (in white) and Erika Miklósa.