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Shoestring Opera’s The Shoestring Magic Flute

by on April 13, 2011

On Sunday, April 17 at 3pm, The Fredericton Playhouse Kidstage Series is proud to present The Shoestring Magic Flute Based on Mozart’s famous opera. 

Shoestring Opera

Many people, when they think of opera, will immediately say “oh, I don’t like it.”  In fact, I used to be one of those people, shying away from something that I didn’t fully understand.  What I didn’t realize was that there were many references to opera in my everyday life that I either didn’t recognize or notice.  A few years ago, I started going to the Live at the Met presentations, becoming immediately addicted to the drama, costumes, intense storylines, and of course, the exquisite music.  Today, I’m an opera convert and my only regret is that I didn’t open myself to its possibilities sooner. 

So if you’re open to the possibility that your children could experience the artistic beauty and magic of opera, bring your kids or grandkids to the Playhouse on Sunday afternoon.  Here are five simple suggestions that will help your kids (and you) have a great experience:

1.  Introduce them to the story – it’s easier to like something that you’re familiar with. 

Synopsis of Shoestring Magic Opera’s The Shoestring Magic Flute:

The Shoestring Magic Flute is based on Mozart’s Opera, The Magic Flute. In our version we meet Allegra on her way home from school. Allegra loves to sing and loves making up rhymes. She finds a golden flute buried in a pile of leaves and when she blows on it, strange things begin to happen. Her street turns into a dark forest and when she blows again, out pops a feathered birdcatcher named Papageno —with a padlock on his mouth! Why does he a padlock on his mouth and what must they do to find their way out of the forest?

Through the power of music and the magic of make-believe, Papageno and Allegra embark on an adventure of sharing and self-discovery.

Allegra, who is very clever, unlocks the padlock. Papageno tells her he has been sent to the forest to learn three lessons about himself. Only then can he get his Magic Bells back, and he needs the Magic Bells to get out of the forest. Three lessons? Papageno has had a padlock put on his mouth three times? Allegra thinks there must be some connection. Papageno admits that the first time he had a padlock put on his mouth he was being chased by a Dragon, but then he killed it. Then the Queen of the Night turned up, and she was even scarier than the Dragon. Papageno claims that the flute Allegra found is “the Magic Flute”, that she has been given in order to help him. 

If Allegra blows on the flute, she can become anyone she wants. To try to find out what happened when Papageno met the Dragon, she blows on the flute, and abracadabra, Papageno is being chased by a four-legged, two-winged, fire-breathing Dragon! Papageno runs for his life, and just as the Dragon is about to catch him, it trips and falls, momentarily stunned, Papageno thinks the Dragon is dead, and begins boasting about having killed it. The terrifying Queen of the Night charges in and claps a padlock on his mouth. “See where your chattering’s gotten you now!” Once more, Allegra unlocks the padlock. She knows that Papageno was not telling the truth about killing the Dragon, that the Dragon recovered and just got up and walked away. Papageno finally admits that, yes, he lied. They hear the Magic Bells ringing. Papageno has learned his first lesson: he must always tell the truth.

So what happened the second time he had a lock put on his mouth? “Well, there was this Prince. And I was supposed to help him rescue the Princess from the Castle of Darkness; he told me to wait outside and not to make a sound.”  Allegra blows on the Flute and immediately turns into the brave Prince at the Castle of Darkness. He posts Papageno outside as a guard and makes him promise that he will be quiet, he must not make a sound or they’ll be found out. Papageno promises, but when the Prince leaves to rescue the Princess, Papageno can’t resist whispering to the children in the audience, then singing to them his Bird-catcher song. Before long he is singing very loudly, when… comes The Queen of the Night and claps another padlock on his mouth. Allegra quickly discovers why, and Papageno has to admit that he broke his promise, and the second lesson is: I should always keep a promise. The Bells are heard again.

Now for lesson number three. Papageno was looking for a girlfriend, and this time he had his Magic Bells. He had been told that if he played them, the girl of his dreams would magically appear. Once more Allegra blows on the Flute. Papageno plays the Bells, and an Old Woman wearing a shawl appears. Papageno is disgusted and recoils from her, calls her a turtle and claims he could never love anyone like her. She throws off her shawl, and lo and behold she is transformed into the beautiful Papagena, but suddenly she vanishes as once again the Queen padlocks Papageno’s mouth, takes his Magic Bells away and banishes him to the Forest. As she leaves, she says, “If you’re lucky, a very nice young girl with a Magic Flute might come and help you, but I can’t promise.”

When Allegra reappears she thinks she knows what happened: “You were really mean to Papagena.” Papageno understands that he did wrong, that saying mean things to people makes them sad, but if you’re nice to everyone it makes them happy.

They hear the Bells once again, but the Forest is still dark and there is no sign of Papagena. Suddenly Allegra understands. Papageno must say he’s sorry. He must apologize. When he does, his Magic Bells are handed back, he rings them and Papagena appears. They declare their love and decide that they must be married right away. Allegra re-enters, and tells Papageno to play his Magic Bells one more time. He does so, the Forest disappears, Papagena is waiting for him, and Allegra can see her house. They say a fond goodbye, thanking each other for all they’ve learned in the Forest. Allegra buries her Flute again in the pile of leaves and sets off home.

2.  Meet the characters: 

There are the two principal characters in the performance. When Papageno discovers that Allegra has picked up the Magic Flute, he tells her:

 “The Magic Flute, together with your imagination, lets you become anyone you want. You just think abut who you want to be, blow on the flute, and abracadabra, you turn into that person for as long as you want.”

So, Allegra blows on the Flute, and abracadabra, she becomes:

  • A Dragon
  • The Queen of the Night
  • A Prince
  • An Old Woman
  • Papagena


 3.  Be familiar with the genre:  What is an opera?

 It is a story that is sung. It differs from a play in that the music and singing carry us to a place of high emotion that words alone cannot reach. The art form is a larger-than-life experience, usually dealing with big human issues and emotions.

 Allegra asks Papageno, “Where am I?” and he replies, “You’re in an opera.” He then has to explain to her what an opera is. “Let me tell you all about the opera. So much fun to be in an opera!”

 4.  Introduce them to Mozart and his music

being familiar with the music will keep them dancing in their seats…and beyond.

Mozart began playing the piano at three and composing at the age of five. His father Leopold was a composer and teacher of piano and violin. Wolfgang and his older sister Nannerl showed exceptional musical talents at an early age and were hailed as child prodigies wherever they played.

When he was six the family began a series of tours exhibiting their famous and gifted children at imperial courts and royal houses all over Europe. Mozart wrote his first symphony at the age of 10, his first opera at the age of 11.

5.  Give them examples of opera that they can relate to:

Looney Tunes, The Rabbit (Barber) of Seville

Looney Tunes, What’s Opera Doc?  :

 …or have you kids create their own unique opera in this animated, interactive version of Hansel and Gretel.  Kids will have the chance to change the costumes, choreography, backdrop etc.

The Shoestring Magic Flute features two singer/actors, a cellist, a pianist, and Mozart’s beautiful music, this is an ideal child’s introduction to the joy of opera!  Hopefully, we’ll see you at the opera!

 Tickets for The Shoestring Magic Flute are available at the Fredericton Playhouse box office 1-866-884-5800, or online at

Submitted by

Amani Wassef

Education and Outreach Director

Excepts taken from Shoestring Magic Opera’s The Shoestring Magic Flute Study Guide.


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