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String theory: Watch Mozart’s opera being performed by puppets

Watch an 18th century two-act opera by Mozart being recreated with puppets, this weekend

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Dec 16, 2016 19:34 IST
Soma Das
Charu Prasad

A scene from The Magic Flute (Photo courtesy: Charu Prasad)

Watch an 18th century two-act opera by Mozart being recreated with puppets, this weekend

On her summer vacation to Vienna in Austria, Charu Prasad (46), founder of Iris Creative Education, got to watch a lot of opera performances. Opera is a part of the school curriculum there and a popular hobby. Prasad’s organisation conducts workshops for children and she hit upon the idea of hosting a marionette (puppet worked with strings) opera in Mumbai.

“I thought it would be a good way to introduce children to Western classical compositions,” says Prasad, adding, “Children, who are exposed to good music at a young age, can grow up to be attuned to the arts.”

A scene from The Magic Flute (Photo courtesy: Charu Prasad)

The play she chose to adapt was The Magic Flute, a two-act opera which was Mozart’s last work. It premiered in 1791 and was such a success that it was performed over a 100 times that year. The Magic Flute alternates musical numbers with spoken dialogue, a style called ‘singspiel’. A fairytale, the story revolves around a prince and his friend who embark on a journey to rescue a damsel in distress. The one-hour show has 15 characters and Prasad has been working on the play for the last four months.

Prasad, a company secretary by profession, and originally from Gurgaon, pursued a module on puppetry at The Tridha Rudolf Steiner School while looking for a good school for her daughter in Mumbai. She believes that puppets can be a good way of imparting alternative education to children.

The backdrops and puppets are made by Prasad and her team by painting on canvas and using pure silk or cotton cloth respectively. A characteristic of the puppets is that they don’t have any facial expressions or features (no eye, nose, etc). “If you draw an eye on a puppet, their expression gets fixed. I wanted to keep the expression of the puppet neutral to help children use their imagination,” she says.

Her previous puppet plays have been on the Norwegian fairy tale – East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Prasad prefers fairy tales as she feels that they appeal to a diverse audience and can be inspirational.

Prasad is now working on a script where puppets are used for sex education in schools. “No one is embarrassed to ask questions to a puppet and it makes even boring sessions lively,” she says.

The Magic Flute will be staged on December 17, 5pm onwards
At Godrej Dance Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
Call 3989 5050
Tickets: Rs 350