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Mozart Now: The _Magic Flute_ at Angkor Wat

Dr. Monika Hennamann


Mozart’s _Magic Flute_, as perhaps befits an allegory, has long been subject to adaptations and animations, to translations and transformations. In December 2022, it will reach a remarkable milestone in becoming the first Western opera ever to be staged in Cambodia. However, this will not be Mozart’s _Singspiel_ as might have been recognized by the Viennese in 1791, but rather, as acknowledged in the title, _A Cambodian Magic Flute_, incorporating traditional instruments, music and dance associated with the native 16/17th-century Reamker epic (the Cambodian version of the Indian Ramayana), and with the German dialogue replaced by Khmer narration. The production has been planned for a number of years–with delays occurring owing to the pandemic, among other problems, after an initial semi-staged fundraising performance in Phnom Penh.


Among the questions to be raised in this presentation will be: How does one introduce Western opera to a region of the world that has had no prior exposure to it? Indeed, why should one do so in the first place? And why _Die Zauberflöte_, and for what audience? Why the adaptation of the musical score and the text? Basically, what’s the point?

And then there is the bigger picture: How does this project relate to other “East meets West” intercultural endeavours? And how does the fluid creative processes associated with the production fit into the established concepts of ‘Intercultural Theatre’? Finally, are we looking here at a curiosity of reception history, or at an emblem of post-colonial politics, of nationalism, of patronage, of marketing and of tourism?

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