The English composer Stephen Oliver showed not a little courage in choosing to adapt Thomas Mann’s famous novella »Mario and the Magician«. By not slavishly following the original, this leading composer of opera in the latter part of the 20th century managed to create a tremendously dense and dramatic libretto, and a score which skilfully examines such universal themes as deception, seduction, free will and cultural conditioning.
A summer holiday on the Italian coast. The heat is oppressive, as is the atmosphere between the locals and holidaymakers. The tension eventually explodes into outright xenophobia when the young daughter of a German mother is spotted naked for a brief moment on the beach. The scandal is perfect, the beach-dwellers clearly divided between we«, the Italians, and »you«, the Germans. Later, the guests are reluctantly reunited when attending the show of the strange magician Cipolla. The latter goes a step too far, however, after inviting the waiter Mario onto the stage in order to read his thoughts. Cipolla, who is repulsively ugly, uncovers memories of an unrequited love and makes Mario believe him to be this long-desired lover. After the seduction comes a kiss …
Premiered in 1988, this chamber work by Stephen Oliver reveals great sensitivity in creating scenic music which portrays diverse figures and shifting atmospheres. At the same time audiences can enjoy a convincing parable about the ease with which we are manipulated by dark seducers.
Libretto by Stephen Oliver, based on the novella of the same name by Thomas Mann.
Semper 2 For 12 years and older
Running time 1 hour 30 minutes
Premiere 22 Nov 2012