The Magic Flute

Opera: Set Design

The Magic Flute to me reads as an unsettling tale of kidnapping, torture, manipulation, a tale transition from life into something ‘other’.  Through this lens I have chosen to focus on ritualism and liminality as well as the ideas of science and alchemy imbedded in the story of the Magic Flute.

I drew a lot upon geometric shapes, light and dark, and structures that have a kind of haunting otherworldness about them.  I was also looking at a lot of fractals in my research as a tangent to alchemy and science.  

I arrived at the idea of having two floating triangular flats which would shift and move around in different formations.  Keeping with the idea of transition and journey in the Magic Flute, I wanted the set to also have a parallel journey, changing and morphing with the music and the action of the play.   At key moments in the Opera, set elements would be introduced to create dynamic images and then removed again leading up to a final image of threshold into ‘otherness’.


The flats movements and topography would be mapped and then a recording projected onto them.  The content for projection would be developed in collaboration with visual artists using a generative video platform like TouchDesigner.

The generative visuals would relate to the action below by way of 'sympathetic geometry', so algorithmic patterns that morph in accordance to the mood of the opera. Secondly, the visuals would be sound reactive, so not only is the video following the flats, it is directly influenced by the music and by ambient sound effects. This, mixed with the complex mapping allows the visuals to transcend mere 'video', but become an element that engulfs the stage, and is felt rather than watched. 


Writer:  Wolfgang Mozart and Emanuel Schikaneder 
Designer: Anastassia Poppenberg
Mentor: Gregory Clarke

A theoretical design investigation.