One of my favorite works of classical music is Mozart's Magic Flute, a singspiel that is connected, not only to high opera, but to the rowdy German music halls of its time. So I was delighted when, in 2015, Annex Theater asked me to help as music director in staging this gem in a tiny, 30 person theater on North Avenue.
Budget ruled an orchestra out of the question—the score would have to be played on computer and built in software—but it occurred to me to embrace this fact by scoring the orchestra as a collection of sampled toy, mechanical, and a few period and folk instruments. By "period" I mean not only 18th century variants of orchestral instruments, but also samples of authentic 1950s and 60s synthesizers, including the unique Jennings Univox, a vacuum-tube instrument from 1954. The result was an exceptionally warm and unique accompaniment for the singers. The score was mixed in 4-channel surround and played back on computer.
Annex company member Jacob Budenz joined me as director of the singers, and we collaborated on stylistic details; Evan Moritz directed the staging, and Doug Johnson provided magnificent painted backdrops that paged like a giant picture-book to reveal the settings.
Photos by Dave Iden