Friday, July 8, 2011

The Magic Flute And Its Relevance

This year marks the 220th year since The Magic Flute, Mozart's final opera first premièred in Vienna. In fact, this was the money-making opera for Mozart since he's beset by financial difficulties, owing many people money. I actually planned to write this to commemorate it on its premier date, 30 September, but the recent situation involving how the government reacts to the planned Bersih rally, which I admit that they have gone bonkers and delusional coupled with throwing bewildering accusations at Bersih, including arresting many people in accusation of supporting it somewhat makes it fun to put some relevance to Mozart's masterpiece. 

By November 1792, the opera has been conducted 100 times, but sadly Mozart died before that time, in December 1791.

The opera was largely influenced by Enlightenment philosophy and it is an allegory to absolute enlightened absolutism. The narrative progression goes from chaos through religious superstition to rationalistic enlightenment  by trial and error culminating in the creation of a kingdom of heaven. 

What is interesting is that the key characters in the opera represent the many facets of society. The characters are simplified as follows:

The Queen of the Night - a representation of obscurantism , in other words, the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or the full details of some matter from becoming known. This is ironically what is happening right now, where people are denied the knowledge of what they want to know. Instead, they were threatened with a charge of the Official Secrets Act if information is to be revealed. And this is why many people to this day has either no clue or they acted foolishly without the proper and sufficient knowledge. The aristocracy's obscurantism of the social problem's is the main factor the start of the French Revolution.

The three ladies of the Queen - Represents the agents that will carry out her order. The mainstream media has been ordered to do a smear campaign of Bersih. The main goal is simple: manufacturing consent, to create a consent among the simpleton minded (those like Papageno) that Bersih is a no good thing, without presenting the reasons why Bersih would do such thing. They would also twist to include statements from leaders who are opposed to the idea of clean elections.

Ironically, like Tamino, the trials that are facing the people is how to march and protest in peace without having the consistent troublemaking from the police. It's a pity that many policemen were programmed to do as ordered, without using their common sense and even if the orders are in conflict with morality grounds.

Sarastro - a representation of the enlightened sovereign who rules according to principles based on reason, wisdom, and nature. The complete anti-thesis of the Queen of the Night. He reveals that she attempts to bewilder people with superstition and groundless fears. The first model that serves the influence of the character was Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II - an ultimately flawed figure despite his attempt on using the principles above.

Pamina - daughter of the Queen of the Night, representing people. Sarastro refused to let her return to her mother because she was not properly guided. As what Mozart and Schikander put in - the people must be guided proper, even if there are mistakes apart.

Tamino - the main protagonist - representing the trials that mankind must go through. At the start of the second act, Sarastro declared that Pamina must be guided by man, Tamino represents the trials that Pamina will faced or in other way round, the people.

Papageno - Tamino's companion, Papageno represents the foolish and the error of the people. These people are mainly simpletons, those who do not really bother about enlightenment and wisdom but just food, drink and companionship. In Act II Scene 5, the priests scolded Papageno because he will never know the enlightened bliss of the gods, but instead Papageno said, there are many unenlightened but happy. This is the danger of being susceptible to the danger of superstition and groundless fears. 

The are three famous numbers for this opera:

1. Hell's Vengeance Boils In My Heart - The most difficult aria, performed by the Queen of the Night. She orders Pamina to kill Sarastro, or risks being disowned in pain by the mother. The pitch notation of this aria can reach up to F6. A few sopranos could perform at such degree, and currently the modern day soprano that could perform that is Diana Damrau. 

2. A Girl Or Young Woman - Papageno's number representing his desire for a young woman as a wife, but it is already that he refuses enlightenment, as mentioned at the start of Act II. 

3. Papapapa duet - Papageno and Papagena stammer at each other that they started to warm up and eventually got their wish of love.

The storyline or whatsoever is not quite important. The metaphor of the story is. Looking back at the story, and coupled of what is happening right now, it is clear that the government's paranoia over the matter of people demanding for fair and clear elections is akin to what the Queen of The Night would exhort to do. The police, and some ministers like Hishamuddin Hussein are like the Queen's three ladies, doing her bidding. They would harass people, simply arresting people, do all the silly things instead of catching the real scum out on the streets.

It's the government's paranoia - the fear of losing power, to divert the internal fighting among themselves, and all the things that are considered to be a bane as well as how the society will go against them prompted them to be in such obscurantism. 

The mainstream media, like one of the three ladies have been on the smearing Bersih campaign. The main goal is obviously to manufacture consent among the audience, particularly simpletons and those in the rural land area. They are the ones ignorant or do not have alternative access to other channels. Manufacturing consent is one of the things the acclaimed Noam Chomsky spoke about in several of his books. I am very critical on the attitude of many Papagenos online. I have seen many people who seem to be very ignorant of those and have yet to understand the realities of the fragile present election system. Many claimed that Bersih is opposition. On the contrary no. It is natural for them to support for they have been victims of fraud. The instance of fraud in Sarawak or Hulu Selangor is the case in point.

Monostatos is the big henchman of the Queen of the Night. Perkasa can the example

Obviously, Pamina is representing the people themselves and the actions of trial and error will determine whether she would either go back to her mother or follow the guidance of Sarastro and the marriage of trial / Tamino. 

The problem with Malaysia is there are lack of enlightened leaders to lead the way. By the antics of how they deal, Najib and his most team of ministers are mere showman, but not with people with quality. They could have handled the situation well, give Bersih 3 hours for the day and solving the problem. Unfortunately, because of paranoia, they decided to play hard. Can Anwar be under the group of enlightened leaders like Sarastro? No, given of the present skeletons in his closet. 

The Saturday's rally will be a trial that Malaysians who have realized the importance of fair playing field of the election game that will determine the outcome in generations to come. It will be one step towards enlightenment or one step backwards to obscurantism as what the present government of the day is advocating, by playing dirty. And it has already attracted an international audience, with human rights groups in particular paying attention. 

I am certain that the Vatican and London is also watching as Najib will be visiting these places from tomorrow and next week. Many said that Najib is a laughing stock now given of his handling of the situation. I bet it would be.

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