Metropolitan Opera 2017-18 Preview: ‘Die Zauberflöte’s’ Tale of Two Languages

By David Salazar

Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte” is one of the most popular operas ever written. According to OperaBase, the work was the second most performed in 2015-16, a trend likely to continue into the upcoming seasons.

For its 2017-18 rendition of the opera, the Metropolitan Opera is doing something quite unusual, at least by the company’s standards – it is showing the famed opera in both English and German versions, the latter getting an HD performance on Oct. 14, 2017. James Levine conducts the original version while Evan Rogister gets the English-language duties. Of the cast members, tenor Charles Castronovo, bass Tobias Kehrer, and soprano Kathryn Lewek will perform in both productions.

Both versions will get five performances, the original iteration debuting on the second day of the season, Sept. 27, 2017. “The Magic Flute” arrives on Nov. 25, 2017, and ends its run on Dec. 9.

Statistically speaking, the opera has been performed 433 over the Met’s entire history, but 127 of those performances have been in English. The first-ever performance of the opera was on March 30, 1900, while the first in English was on Dec. 11, 1941. English iterations of the famed opera held the Met stage consistently for about 40 or so years alongside the original version, often within the same season until the company took a nearly two-decade-long hiatus from presenting the opera in the language.

On Dec. 29, 2006, Julie Taymour’s production of the opera, which still stands today, had its premiere in English, eventually getting an HD performance that very season.

In recent years, the company has favored the English language version of the opera as it has catered to younger audiences with greater ease than the original German version. This season’s showcase of the original text of the opera will be the first since 2014.