‘SuperFlute’ brings Mozart’s opera into the era of video games

What do a certain mustachioed Italian plumber, an ocarina-playing leprechaun in a green tunic, and a gorilla wearing a tie have in common with the works of classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?

Plenty, it turns out, when their worlds collide in “#SuperFlute, an English-language adaptation of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute,’ which makes its regional debut Friday and Saturday at Replay Cafe Detroit.

Local company Opera MODO will take audiences down the pipe of distortion for Josh Shaw and E. Scott Levin reimagining the timeless German fairy tale opera. The duo hatched the idea for Los Angeles’ Pacific Opera Project, which presented the production in 2019. Detroit is the second city to present the new work.

“#SuperFlute” blends Mozart’s fantastical score with the best-known characters from classic arcade and console games and state-of-the-art projections.

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“Opera MODO is about taking classic opera and making it as accessible as possible to performers and audiences alike,” said Pat Roache, Marketing Assistant at MODO. “Video games are so popular, and during quarantine a lot of our promotion team started playing ‘Dungeons and Dragons,’ so the game is near and dear to our hearts and minds. When we were looking to come back to the stage, we knew we wanted to bring this Pacific Opera Project production here, because it matched our own goals.

Having familiar video game characters tackle operatic roles leads to fun and surprises. For example, audiences can see an infamous giant villain perform the legendary tune “Queen of the Night.” Baritone Ben King Quale stepped into – or, more accurately, jumped into – the shoes of the heroic plumber (known as Papageno in “The Magic Flute”). He talked about the challenge he faced in merging the two characters.

“The original opera character looks like a bird, not a leader, not strong-willed. In this case, my character seeks out a certain princess in a pink dress, but learns through another more heroic character in a green tunic. He is constantly seeking help and comfort during the show, and his insecurities may or may not lead to the confidence to go off on his own. The way I interpret my video game character is through my pride in the sense of what I do as a plumber.

“People reading this,” he said, “should think almost the opposite of what you think of standard opera. Opera MODO is a really great family-oriented community and culture that pushes the boundaries of modernization and inclusivity. It makes this whole environment so welcoming, develops a real relationship with the audience and helps bring people into the opera with a new perspective.

Roache accepted.

“Our goal,” he said, “is to throw our arms wide open to everyone, despite what they think opera is or should be.”

Contact Free Press arts and culture reporter Duante Beddingfield at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @DBFreePress.

‘#SuperFlute’

7 p.m. Fri-Sat

Replay Cafe Detroit

6545 Saint Antoine, Detroit

$25 and up at the door, proof of vaccination required

facebook.com/OperaMODO

John C. Dent