Director’s News

“Doc Talk”/Class Lesson 6/3/2020

“DOC TALK”/CLASS LESSON – Wednesday, June 3, 2020





1) Tomorrow, Thursday, June 4th, from 9:00am-3:00pm, students may stop by the band room to do the following types of activities:

-Return concert music, instruments, accessories (mouthpieces, mutes) – this is especially critical for SENIORS!

-Pick up instruments to be used for marching band, this includes mallet instruments to take home to practice.

-Students who have earned positions in the East Central District Honor Band and All-State Band, as well as senior Tri-M  members, can pick up their medals and honor cords.

-You are also welcome to just drop by to see meJ

-There will likely be some restrictions in place (masks, entrance locations, etc.); please check the school’s website and I   will also try to keep you informed.


2) Registration for Marching Band is OPEN on our website!!!

Please sign up ASAP, and spread the word, especially to rising 9th graders!  The due date is Friday, June 19th.


Monday’s Lesson:“Toy Story” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Petrushka,” Tableaux 1-2

Tuesday’s Lesson: “Toy Story” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Petrushka,” Tableaux 3-4

Today’s Lesson:  Let’s go to the opera!!  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”


We’re going to switch from ballet to opera for the next 2 days and explore Mozart’s last opera, “The Magic Flute.”  If you enjoy movies and Broadway musicals–and I’m certain that most of you do—than you’ll enjoy opera.  It’s that simple, because an opera is just a like movie, or a musical.


Operas get a “bad rap” though for the following reasons:

1)   They are often sung/spoken in a non-English dialect.

2)   The actual “action,” that is the story line, moves at a slower pace than a modern movie.

3)   At times the singing seems “over the top” with regard to flourish and ornamentation, even extreme range.

4)   Some of the stories are about events/tales that seem too “stuffy” for modern audiences.


However, in answer to each of these points, I offer the following:

1)   With our modern-day internet, you can enjoy most operas performed in English.  You can also enjoy an opera   sung/spoken in its original dialect with English subtitles.

2)   The action moves slower because there are moments when the characters will sing songs about the events and    their emotions.  These songs are called “arias” and are often the most beautiful parts of an opera.  Imagine “The Sound   of Music” without all the wonderful songs…it just wouldn’t be the same!

3)   Sometimes the singers like to “show-off” their vocal range and technique, but in good operas, it is always done with “taste.”  It is similar to an instrumentalist displaying virtuosity.  Provided the performance is tasteful, it can be a wonderful moment.

4)   Yes, some operas are about events/tales steeped in medieval legend and lore; however, there are many operas which deal with more “everyday human emotions and situations.”  I might add that the operas that are based on medieval legends still deal with human emotions at their core.


Bottom line, if you like movies, you’ll love opera!


I chose Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” for the following reasons:

1)   I wanted to explore a well-known opera.

2)   I wanted to explore an opera that contained a wealth of emotions—excitement, fear, mystery, humor, romance, magic, etc.

3)   I love Mozart and you must experience his operas in order to really understand him as a composer.  Opera was always Mozart’s first love!

4)   I wanted to explore an opera that contained some great arias, but also some fine recitatives and perhaps some spoken dialogue.  “The Magic Flute” has all 3!


As I previously mentioned, “The Magic Flute” was Mozart’s last opera, completed and performed in 1791, just months before his death!  Mozart wrote the music; the words (libretto) was written by Emanuel Schikaneder.  [Fun fact:  Very rarely does a composer write the libretto.  Richard Wagner is the only musician that I can recall that wrote his own libretti.]  “The Magic Flute” is a special type of opera known as a singspiel—an opera with spoken dialogue.  Furthermore, it was originally written in German–the native language of Vienna—in order to have greater appeal to the Viennese public.  [Most operas written at this time were done in Italian because this language is much easier to sing to.]


Let’s listen!


First of all, all operas—like Broadway musicals–begin with an instrumental OVERTURE!  This is a way to “warm-up” the audience’s ear to the melodies and moods that will be explored in the upcoming opera.  It also serves the practical purpose of notifying everyone that the opera is about to start and to find their seats, etc.


Because the overture is entirely instrumental, operatic overtures are often separated from their opera and performed as free-standing selections on a concert.  In fact, many operas which are no longer staged, still have overtures that are played frequently by orchestras!  In other words, the music was great by the actual story only so-so.


Also, these overtures often were crafted in sonata form!   Many would begin with a slow introduction, followed by an exposition containing 2 or 3 themes (songs), followed by some sort of “bridge passage” that would serve as a brief development, and then a recapitulation where the themes in the exposition would be played one for time.  It’s like a formula!


And here’s a fun fact:  composers often wrote the overture AFTER they wrote the opera.  This makes sense because the overture is often built upon tunes contained in the opera.  Sometimes fast-writing composers such as Mozart and Rossini—would write the overtures on the morning of the first performance, and the orchestra would sight-read the overtures!  No kidding!


Let’s listen to the overture to “The Magic Flute:

Music cue #1:  0:50-5:45 of the attached link (Vienna Philharmonic)

-Slow, dramatic introduction beginning in the home key of “Eb”; varying dynamics (ff-p), chromaticism, mood of mystery

-Allegro!  Exposition!  It’s a fugue!  Note the subject (Theme A):  repeated eighth-notes.  Yes, Mozart will use this figure in the opera!

-Theme B is a short scalar figure that is tossed back and forth between instruments (like a dialogue).

-A return to the block chords of the introduction make us wonder if we are repeating the exposition, but NO-we’re in the wrong key-we’re on the dominant “Bb.”

-A Development ensues!  Mozart mainly develops Theme A; however, after a grand pause, uses Theme B to answer Theme A—ingenious!

-A False or Fake recapitulation is sounded that almost sounds genuine and then Mozart gives us the real Recapitulation.


And the opera has not even started yet!  But that’s Mozart!  J  It’s all so good!!!


Okay, now we need to give you a quick synopsis of the story:

“The Magic Flute” is about a young man (Tamino) who is sent on a mission to rescue the daughter (Pamina) of “The Queen of the Night” who was kidnapped by a supposed villain named Sarastro.  As a reward for the Pamina’s rescue, the young man will be permitted to marry her.  Upon reaching the castle of Sarastro, Tamino is told that he would have to perform 3 feats of courage in order to prove his character and rescue Pamina.  With the aid of a magic flute, given to him by The Queen of the Night, Tamino is able to perform these feats and is permitted to rescue and marry Pamina. 


There are many little “sub plots” that we’ll reveal as necessary.


Music cue #2:  14:51-18:04 in the attached link (Loyola University performance)

This is the first of 9 arias in this opera.  Remember, an aria is simply a song, usually performed by a soloist who aims to express emotions connected with an event.


In this aria, a comic character, Papageno, enters the story.  Papageno is a “bird catcher.”  He is opposite in character from Tamino, the hero.  Papageno is a recluse who just likes to be alone with his birds.  However, Papageno longs for a companion, a wife.  In this aria, Papageno expresses the fact that he is a “happy bird catcher” who wishes he could catch a girl to call his wife.

Here is a rough translation of the 3 verses:


The bird-catcher, that’s me,

Always cheerful, hip hooray!

As a bird-catcher I’m known

To young and old throughout the land.

I know how to set about luring

And how to be good at piping.

That’s why I can be merry and cheerful,

For all the birds are surely mine.


The bird-catcher, that’s me,

Always cheerful, hip hooray!

As a bird-catcher I’m known

To young and old throughout the land.

I’d like a net for girls,

I’d catch them for myself by the dozen!

Then I’d lock them up with me,

And all the girls would be mine.


If all the girls were mine,

I’d barter plenty of sugar:

The one I liked best,

I’d giver her the sugar at once.

And if then she kissed me tenderly,

She would be my wife and I her husband.

She’d fall asleep at my side,

And I’d rock her like a child.


It’s cute how Mozart was able to give Papageno a flute-type instrument to play to lure the birds.  Tamino’s flute will give him courage—Papageno’s will get him girls!  Ha, ha!


Music cue #3:  beginning 29:30

The Queen of the Night makes her first appearance in the opera and asks Tamino to rescue her daughter.

Note that the Queen’s opening lines are in the style of a recitative:  a hybrid type of music that is neither song nor speech; a declamatory speech-like singing that is somewhat free in rhythm.  Mozart’s is actually fairly tuneful…again, it’s Mozart!

After the opening lines, the music resumes a more “aria-like” song quality.

Here’s a rough translation:


Oh, do not tremble my dear son!

You are guiltless, wise, and pious.

A young man like you is best able

To comfort the deeply distressed heart of a mother.


Suffering is my lot,

For my daughter is not with me.

Through her I have lost all my happiness;

A villain made off with her.

I still see her trembling

With alrm and shock,

Quivering with anxiety,

Struggling timidly.

I had to see her stolen from me,

“Ah help!” was all she said;

But her pleading was in vain,

For my aid was too feeble.

You will go to free her,

You will be the rescuer of my daughter.

And if I see you as victor,

Then may she be yours for ever.


Music cue #4:  beginning 47:45

We pick up the action as Papageno (Tamino’s bird-catcher friend) actually finds Pamina in captivity in Sarastro’s castle.  Papageno tells Pamina that her “prince charming” Tamino will soon come to rescue her, but expresses his loneliness for not having anyone special in his life.  Note that this part of the opera is spoken!


After a few lines, Papageno and Pamina sing a duet (an aria for 2 voices) expressing the joy of finding someone to love.

Here is a rough translation:



In men who feel love,

A good heart, too, is never lacking.



Sharing these sweet urges

Is then women’s first duty.



We want to enjoy love;

It is through love alone that we live.



Love sweetens every sorrow;

Every creature pays homage to it.



It gives relish to the days of our life,

It acts in the cycle of nature.



Its high purpose clearly proclaims:

There is nothing nobler than woman and man.

Man and woman, and woman and man,

Reach toward the deity.


Act I concludes with Papageno and Tamino being captured by Sarastro.

Now Pamina (The Queen of the Night’s daughter), Papageno and Tamino are all captives of the “villain” Sarastro.  Tomorrow we’ll explore Act 2 and find out how all this ends up!



1) Watch Act I of “The Magic Flute” in English presented by Loyola University.

2) If you want a more “professional” rendering (one in German but with English subtitles), explore this one by the Vienna Opera.


It’s really fun!  Just sit back and enjoy the show!

Dr. Jerry Markoch, Director of Bands

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