Meet Barrie Kosky, the director shaking up LA Opera’s ‘Magic Flute’

A portrait of Barrie Kosky, the director of "Magic Flute, " at the Costume Shop in Los Angeles.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Culture Monster got the chance to chat with Australian opera director Barrie Kosky on Thursday, head of Berlin’s experimental Komische Oper Berlin. He’s in town for just three days, to meet with the Los Angeles Opera about the fall production of his interactive, wildly nontraditional version of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

We met up with Kosky at the LA Opera’s costume shop, which was crammed with racks and racks of colorful outfits from operas past – gypsy armor from “Il Trovatore” and a Spanish bullfighter’s uniform from “Carmen,” among them.

But Kosky, in his 1960s East German bowling shoes, chunky silver rings and designer eyeglasses, was just as dapper. He was a little tired, having just arrived from LAX; but talking about the upcoming “Magic Flute” revived him.

PHOTOS: LA Opera through the years

“It’s weird and wonderful,” Kosky said. “I always said I wouldn’t ever do this opera unless I found a new way to do it -- I saw it first when I was about 8 and hated it, I was bored; this is a total [reinvention].”


Starting with the costumes. The production’s costume designer, Esther Bialas, was also in from Germany. She’s conducting performer fittings this week. And on our way out, we got a glimpse of one just-finished costume. It was a 1920s-style tuxedo that all the chorus men will be wearing.

Kosky teamed up with London’s avant-garde theater company 1927 to create the new version of “Magic Flute,” which is heavily informed by the aesthetic of silent films and which combines live opera with cutting edge digital animation. Performers interact on stage with the colorful animated characters in what’s undoubtedly the most unorthodox version of the opera to date.

PHOTOS: Arts and culture in pictures by The Times

Kosky says that since it opened in November 2012, the production has become something of a cult hit in Berlin. He appreciates the positive response; but he says he doesn’t worry too much about rankling the critics.

“I don’t create my work for the critics, I create it for the artists and the audience,” Kosky says. “Those are the only two groups of people I’ve got any interest in what they’ve got to say.”

“Magic Flute” opened at the Komische in November 2012; it runs in L.A. from Nov. 23-Dec. 15. The L.A. debut will be the first time it’s being performed outside of Berlin.


Woody Allen bringing jazz band to Royce Hall

What other Woody Allen movies could be stage material?

Jazz review: Woody Allen’s New Orleans band at Royce Hall


PHOTOS: Hollywood stars on stage

CHEAT SHEET: Spring Arts Preview

PHOTOS: Arts and culture in pictures