CFP: 162. Painting the Moor Green: How Not to Talk About Race and Gender in The Magic Flute (Roundtable)
Misconceptions about race and gender have clouded reception of The Magic Flute. The wish to revise or abandon this work unwittingly supports the dual fallacies that we have progressed far enough to be shocked by its offensive aspects and that Mozart’s time was oblivious to notions of racial and gender equality. To interrogate those assumptions, this Roundtable is not limited to formal papers; it can also include a platform for shared ideas on how we might move forward in facing difficult questions as a community of scholars, pedagogues, performers, directors, and presenters.
Many productions avoid racial issues by reducing the Moor to a sanitized Other, as in Scarfe’s green creature and Peer’s tattooed skin. Yuval Sharon retains blackness and adds commentary: “This doesn’t seem right, you don’t tell stories like this today, why are we telling ourselves this story?” We feel uncomfortable when Papageno is startled by the black skin of Monostatos, yet, as Ava Duvernay captured in this year's film When They See Us, the reaction to black skin produces horrendous consequences today. Enlightenment notions of progress toward human perfection were not monolithic, and racial and gender animus today leave us no moral high ground from which to judge Mozart. The audience groans at the line, “women do little but talk a lot,” yet female U.S. Supreme Court justices are interrupted three times as frequently as are males. Thus, fidelity to the text is not old-fashioned musicology: it facilitates new conversations about long-term wrongs.
The panel invites contributions from all disciplines, including but not limited to literary sources in the fairy tales by Wieland and others; cultural history related to theater and to Schikaneder’s advocacy of the Singspiel; 18th-century feminism; 18th-century views on race; Mozart and freemasonry; production history, reception, and pedagogy.