(American Spectator) -- Recently, my wife and I attended a performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute—which is what German speakers call a Singspiel opera, written in the vernacular and intended for a popular audience. In this it was unlike the others among Mozart’s most famous operas, which were written to Italian libretti and intended for a more aristocratic public—though most were also performed in popular, vernacular versions. The Washington National Opera was staging it in an English translation by one Kelley Rourke, who, besides having the ear for rhyme of your average rap or hip hop artiste—which is to say, hardly any ear at all—managed largely to extract any residual sense of sex difference from the opera’s tale of a young prince’s quest to find and rescue a young princess from imprisonment by (so he is told) an evil sorcerer. You might almost call it magic.
In act one, for example, there is a sublimely simple duet between the young Princess, known as Pamina, and not the young prince but the comic lead, who is called Papageno. It is conventionally known by its first line in German, Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen, and its refrain goes like this: