Towards the Light!
Mozart, like Shakespeare, is one of those rare geniuses who are able to fuse together humour, fantasy and philosophical profundity in one and the same work. The Magic Flute is a comedy about an ordinary citizen, the love story of a young couple, and an ideological battle that is fought with magic and superstition, prayers and curses, fire and water. Who will emerge as the winner? A woman and a man. Mozart shows enlightened, rational humanism triumphing over priests and queens – and their machinery of power made of myths and empty pomp.
The path the protagonists take is not an easy one: two of them try to kill themselves, two actually murder each other, one is flogged on the soles of his feet, and two have to walk through fire and water. In spite of all this, the journey they go on is supremely entertaining for the viewer: a journey that leads through the propitious realm of humour and philosophy and strives for the radiant sun of triumphant rationalism.
In The Merchant of Venice, too, the journey is from darkness into the light. For Shakespeare, Venice wasn't a tourist magnet, but the centre of money and power, a city of men and business, intolerance and hate. There the Christian Antonio and the Jew Shylock see each other as worthy of contempt and punishment.
Away from Venice, however, lies Belmont, a land of women, of music and love. And there the fate of its mistress, Portia, is decided by a choice from among three caskets. The golden casket, symbolising money, has no value here; it is lead that wins. Portia disguises herself as a man in order to humanise the world of men. But she too falls into its clutches and seeks revenge on Shylock, whose hate-filled intolerance acquires an ever greater tragic nobility: a fundamental transformation which only a genius like Shakespeare can make plausible; and Tchaikowsky's moving music demonstrates no less a fine skill.
After a night of hatred, the lovers gather at Belmont to enjoy their dawning love. Two figures, however, stand in the sidelines: the melancholy Antonio and Shylock, a tragic victim of intolerance. Both pay the price for their intransigence.
Let's do the same as this enchanting cast of characters and turn our backs on the darkness and our faces and hearts towards the sun!