We gave it an A-
Art made accessible: Nobody does it better than Classical Kids, the producers of the wonderful music-and-history recordings Beethoven Lives Upstairs and Mr. Bach Comes to Call — musical biographies cloaked in a child-friendly story form. And now: Mozart. In this scaled-down version of The Magic Flute, a girl named Sarah falls, like Alice, into a wonderland production of the famous opera. The production continues, with Sarah becoming a part of the action, acting as a link between the classical piece and its modern audience. With Sarah, we go inside the story — we become part of it and see it, like a radio play, through her eyes. Great concept, except for one problem: Because this is a recording, there’s nothing to see.
Opera is both visual and aural. This is especially true of The Magic Flute, in which Mozart played with the idea that music could actually be concrete (at the story’s climax, music becomes a bridge to carry the lovers over flames).
Nothing concrete here but a jacket illustration; you have to depend on your inner eye and hope the story and music will help you form satisfying images. At first, Flute doesn’t do that; I found it confusing and slow. But eventually, after the majestic “The Gods Above” and a few nasty shrieks from the Queen of the Night, I was swept along. The 3-year-old with whom I listened stared intently at a jacket sketch of the Queen and pronounced her ”a bad queen.” More pictures, or an accompanying booklet, might have led to more insights.
This Flute‘s strength is its music: 19 arias dot the story. And there is wit, as when Sarah, listening to the great lament ”Oh, my heart is broken,” says what everyone who has ever listened to opera has thought: ”I’m never gonna fall in love.”
Will this Flute make your child fall in love with opera? Sure, if he’s a musical genius. If he’s not, find some pictures to help him along. A-