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News > Culture

Ecuador’s Teatro Sucre Pays Homage to Kichwa Culture with the Magic Flute of the Andes

  • Indigenous Kichwa cosmology, music and language take the stage in the Magic Flute of the Andes.

    Indigenous Kichwa cosmology, music and language take the stage in the Magic Flute of the Andes. | Photo: EFE

Published 23 June 2018

Ecuador's Teatro Sucre presented an Andean adaptation of Mozart's last opera, The Magic Flute, complete with Indigenous themes.

Ecuador’s Teatro Sucre has thrilled music lovers in Ecuador with an Andean rendition of Mozart’s last opera, The Magic Flute, in a beautiful tribute to Indigenous cultures this past week.

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The Magic Flute of the Andes has been in the works for over two years after the theater’s director Chia Patiño contacted Segundo Condor, an Ecuadorean musician, and composer who in 2008 embarked on the task of transcribing Mozart's melodies and harmonies, created for a European orchestra, for the Andean Instruments Orchestra.

Almost 40 musicians interpret Mozart’s opera with charangos (a small Andean stringed instrument), sikus (Andean panpipes), flutes, and Andean drums.

Condor passed away a couple of years ago, so he was unable to accompany the opera’s production process.

Musical director Carmen Helena Téllez said in a recent interview “what I did was to reorder (Condor’s) work based on the master's guidelines. Polyphony and harmony have been respected: Mozart lovers will listen to Mozart. What differs is the Andean sonority.”

The opera also required translation from German to Spanish and Kichwa.

Kichwa is one of Ecuador’s official languages, predominantly spoken by the country’s indigenous population of the Andes and some parts of the Amazon.

Mestizos rarely speak it, and until recently it was regarded as an inferior language. It was not until the 2008 Constitution that Kichwa was recognized as an official language in Ecuador.  

By exposing a predominantly mestizo and middle-upper class audience to Kichwa words and phrases, the Magic Flute of the Andes is also pedagogical exercise.

Spectators not only learned that amauta is a teacher, or that inti is kichwa for sun, but they also got a glimpse into the myths and stories that shape Kichwa values.  

Prince Tamino, the hero, becomes the Runa (kichwa word for human being) Auki. The sorcerer Sarastro, a sovereign who rules through wisdom and reason, becomes a spiritual leader named Inti who urges Tamino to listen and be patient to let the light rule in his heart and mind.

Inti and the Queen easily represent the light and the darkness, Hanan Pacha where the gods live, and Uku Pacha, where the dead and the unborn reside.

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