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2022-2023 Season

The Magic Flute

Good, Evil, and Gender Issues in Arizona Opera’s production of THE MAGIC FLUTE

Good, Evil, and Gender Issues in Arizona Opera’s production of THE MAGIC FLUTE
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From our friends at Arizona Opera:

Soprano Katrina Galka shares her perspective, playing The Queen of the Night

The Magic Flute, a fantastical tale rich with comedy, enchantment, and fantasy, will come to Arizona Opera’s stage this April, inviting the audience along a journey of darkness and light. One of Mozart’s most popular and family-friendly operas, The Magic Flute is often presented as a story about finding one’s way through the opposing forces of good and evil in search of truth, reason, love, and enlightenment.

Soprano Katrina Galka, will make her role debut as The Queen of the Night with this production, with performances taking place at Symphony Hall in Phoenix, April 7-9 and The Linda Ronstadt Music Hall in Tucson, April 15 and 16. Galka, who will share the role of the Queen with soprano Emily Misch, said she relates The Magic Flute’s storyline of traveling from darkness to light with her own story as a performing artist, unable to perform during the pandemic.

“I don't think I'm unique in saying that the pandemic, especially the first six months or so, was an extremely challenging time,” said Galka. “For me, it felt unjust, cruel, and deeply disappointing that the opportunities I had worked so hard for wouldn't come to fruition.”

During the months when the performing arts sector was shut down, she continued to work on her singing voice and pursued her entrepreneurial desires, turning a life coaching certification into a flourishing business, coaching and mentoring opera professionals.

“It was hard because, as it turns out, starting a business from scratch is not for the faint of heart,” she said. “Many of the feelings of rejection, inadequacy, and frustration over not being seen that I had faced as a singer, I faced again as I worked on selling coaching for the first time. But I did believe that it was a dark time that could deepen my life if I chose to let it, and that kept me going.”

In The Magic Flute, the forces of The Queen of the Night are pitted against her enemy, the high priest Sarastro, who has allegedly abducted the Queen’s daughter, Pamina. The Queen of the Night’s Act II aria, one of the most famous opera arias, is sung in rage as she orders daughter Pamina to kill Sarastro. Full of virtuosic vocal fireworks and peppered with rare high Fs, the role was written especially for Mozart’s sister-in-law.

What excites Galka the most about the role? The challenge. And how every time she works her pieces, she discovers another way to make it easier, more fluid, more vibrant, more exciting, and more expressive.

“I love doing things that stretch me and ask me to master parts of myself in the process, and this role is absolutely an example of that!” she said. “Sometimes you prepare music that you can sing right from the beginning without a second thought…this has not been one of those pieces for me. The role feels more like the Olympics of singing.”

The Queen of the Night sings pieces that not only require extraordinary vocal technical ability, but are also incredibly well-known, and the anticipation from the audience is high. Galka said the role requires that she be bold and highly energized in her approach to the high F’s and the rest of the piece, while also finding a certain amount of groundedness, calm, and release.

“It’s what I would imagine it would feel like to do backflips on a balance beam—it takes play and finesse to find that artful balance,” explained Galka.

Appreciating that there are still significant cultural challenges in terms of equal treatment of women today, The Magic Flute premiered in 1791 during an era when women were far less recognized and treated less equally in society, and as such, the original libretto is embedded with now problematic material in regards to issues of gender roles, sex, and causal misogyny, which Galka showcases in her role.

While some modern-day opera-goers have claimed The Queen of the Night is one of opera’s most deranged mothers, Galka disagrees with this quick judgment, claiming it is one that reflects the very real historical oppression of women, who when dealing with emotional and mental trauma, were gaslit and diagnosed with hysteria and other mental ailments.

“From the Queen's perspective, she's suffered some pretty intense losses,” said Galka. “Her daughter was kidnapped right from under her nose, and she lost all her power to Sarastro through an act of betrayal by her own late husband. She's basically lost all control, and her sense of safety and identity in the world has been violated. People do extreme things when they're pushed to extreme places.”

Galka admits, the demand to murder Sarastro was not justified nor did the Queen think about the position she put her daughter in when she asked her to kill Sarastro.

“To say that she's deranged diminishes her power, and the thing is, she is entirely led by and motivated by power,” shared Galka. “So, for me, in my embodiment of her, it is important to not just write her off as ‘crazy’ or ‘deranged,’ if I really want to understand her. There is a fire and a spontaneity and so many quick turns in her music that I think show how extremely passionate and motivated by her emotions she is. But the music is never without sense. Everything she does makes perfect sense - most importantly to her - and I think if we're being empathetic, we can make sense of it as well - even if we don't agree.”

CLICK HERE for more information on this production, which plays Symphony Hall in Phoenix on April 7th, 8th, and 9th and In at The Linda Ronstadt Music Hall Tucson on April 15th and 16th.