In the early hours of September 28th, 1791, candlelight still burned dimly in a window above a cobblestone avenue in the walled city of Vienna. In his modest rooms at 790 Rauhensteingasse, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the greatest musical genius ever to grace the Earth, poured his heart and soul into his beloved composition ‘Die Zauberfloete’ (The Magic Flute). This opera, a wholly unique endeavor conceived in German and for the common folk, was due to premiere in a second-class theater on the outskirts of the city on September 30th – two days later. The proprietor, Emmanuel Schikaneder, who had approached Mozart with the initial idea some months before, was now prodding him to complete the work. Mozart had been interrupted by a disappointing engagement for the monarchy in Prague, and was struggling with deteriorating health. He now devoted his precious attention to the final touches of his masterpiece, breathing life into some chorus parts and manifesting the beautiful overture on this cool autumn morning.
Any anxiety that Mozart may have endured regarding public acceptance of this work, vanished during that first performance. The audience, first taken aback in silent amazement, soon abundantly expressed their delight. At one point, a member of the orchestra, himself a composer, stood up and kissed Mozart’s hand. The master smiled at him knowingly, continuing to conduct the orchestra with the other hand. Eventually, every musician in Vienna ventured out to the Theater auf der Wieden to take in a performance of Die Zauberfloete, and it even became fashionable for the elite society to attend.
As Mozart lay sick at home in the following weeks, he was visited regularly by his friends from the theater company. They would, sitting around his bed, sing with Mozart, pieces of his choice, as one of them accompanied on the piano. (Little known to them, far away through the hazy blueness of space, a new nation had just been born. Its first president, George Washington, and other seekers of Truth, were presently in a unique place called New York, working to create a symphony of peoples living together in the highest ideals. In eighteen years, another great soul, Abraham Lincoln, would be born to set forth that noble cause.)
At one o’clock on Monday morning, December 5th, the Musical Genius broke away from the burden of his thirty-five year old diseased body to fly Homeward to rejoin the Heavenly Hosts.
Two hundred and eight and a half years later, in a magical, divine stretch of land near the East Coast of America, Tamino, the prince and hero of the Magic Flute (Wolfgang from Vienna) can be seen rushing through the bushes with a shovel in his hand. He must be hurrying to dig a trench around his feeble, vinyl tent before the next summer morning cloudburst. As the dark air is filled with the gushing sound of falling water, we know his efforts will be in vain. Not far off, Papageno, the jolly bird-catcher and sort-of-hero (Robert from Prague), upon hearing the deluge thunder down on his own tent, screws up his boyish face and pulls the top of his sleeping bag over it.
Could we be witnessing the beginnings of one of the most important creative adventures since Mozart put his quill to parchment, manifesting the first notes of his masterpiece over two centuries ago? . . .
~ SAHAJA YOGIS TAKE THE MAGIC FLUTE TO NEW YORK ~
After months of individual efforts, everyone started landing with pent-up enthusiasm in Paradise, in Canajoharie, in . . . in mud. As the first musical pioneers arrived by bus into the wet darkness there, they knew the real training had just begun. In the short time leading up to the Premiere, Mother Nature was bent on making masters out of them – detached, universal masters who were capable of anything! Today, there still linger some vague memories of that first night, trudging through the darkness in ankle-high mud, lashed by the relentless rain, with a piece of stage-lighting equipment in one arm and a child in the other – mile after mile (or was it just half a mile) from the road to the hangar across that ancient, aboriginal holy-land.
The first days of those two weeks of intense rehearsing included ongoing commuting: to the motel to shower; to the local high school auditorium for international orchestra rehearsal; to the camp to meditate, eat, sleep and sing. Only the stage-crew was a constant: an island in the storm. Piece by piece, the work of art went up. Touch-up by touch-up, the stage-set came to life. Night and day, its engineers toiled until there, in the hangar, out there in the middle of nowhere, the magic setting of the Magic Flute stood in all its glory! Gunther (from Prague and Vienna) and Mason (Seattle and Vienna), assisted periodically by excellent helpers like Thomas and Jeffrey (not to be confused with Thomas Jefferson), invested over two months of creative attention and unfailing physical energy.
There were other inspiring figures in this unfolding, historic drama. The ever buoyant (naughty?) face of the young conductor, ‘Mani’ Schultz, the pinnacle of many generations of Austrian musical talent, could always be seen shining in the center of the action. His parents, Walter and Inge, recognized professionals in the field, also took part. His wife, Sisi, (and later, his father) played first cello. His cousin, Engelbert (rumored to have been a distant relative of Mozart in a past life!) was frequently spellbinding the other members of the group by his versatile talents on the glockenspiel.
On occasion, one could have the chance blessing of rounding a corner and being swept up in the divine Vibrations of the Austrian (and American, Italian, Israeli, Iranian, Indian, etc.) chorus as they practiced that which Mozart had so beautifully created for them to express. And always to be found at the focus of their attention was their tireless leader, Gerald (director of the Vienna Boys Choir), who had magically whipped up a world-class singing group out of the lot of them. Best of all were the all-pervading Star Singers who could be heard from a field of high grass, or a tool-shed or tent as they poured out their heavenly streams of notes. Among them were a whole bunch of Swedes (the entire Sahaja Yogi population of Sweden?) who never ceased to amaze listeners by their virtuosity. Even in the solitude of sleep, we dreamt each night of the multi-faceted diamond called the Magic Flute with its brilliant singers, dancers, actors, musicians, and other artists.
Special mention must be given of the Director, Sir Tilmann Schillinger (of German television comedy-series fame), who can even inspire uplifting, creative visions in his viewers as he brushes his teeth on the edge of a wind-swept field. And of course, the second-in-command of Dramatic Wonders, Gita, who seemed to be everywhere at the same time! (And an Austrian guy named Martin, a producer, supported by his wife, Sita, who somehow managed, and professionally, to sing bass in the chorus, play two or three parts on center stage, drive everyone around, keep track of all the eighty members, and organize finances without skipping a breath!) And no less, all those others (like Stephanie, Vanessa, Ursula, Michi, Poorna, the Bellans, and the Leonis, and the enlightened musicians, etc.) whose deeds of merit are already eternally registered in the heavenly Akashic Records.
The grand climax to all the efforts, all the smiles and tears, all the obstacles and all the hopes, came far removed from the fresh, muddy reality of the Sahaja Yoga campsite: It peaked on Friday, June 23rd, 2000, in the other-worldly fable-island of New York City. The outcome of all that rehearsing was about to present itself on stage in the Big Apple. As seven p.m. approached and the ‘me-me-me’s and ‘la-la-la’s were becoming less frequent backstage, a whisper ran through the ranks: “Shri Mataji’s here!” Maybe there was never really any doubt that She, the very Heart of our inspiration, would actually come in Person. But now the sight of Her through the chinks of the stage decorations, settling down into a seat in the middle of the theater, was the hope above all hopes miraculously answered for each member of the company.
The houselights dim, the conductor raises his baton, and it feels like the world is about to change forever, like that legendary moment in Vienna when the Master himself stepped up to the podium. Even from backstage the famous overture sounds new, vital and magical as it rises from our enlightened orchestra. Then voices begin filling the air with waves of honey-tones. Time passes and so do the many characters going to and from the stage and dressing rooms. Robert, in his bright feathers, moves slowly by with a concentrated look on his otherwise happy-go-lucky face. The half of the chorus sitting impatiently on this side, listen for their cue. Karin from Sweden, looking wonderful and terrible in her robes and make-up as Queen of the Night, takes her position backstage, ready to make her entry. The others give smiles of encouragement and a powerful collective bandhan for her to reach the high F in her aria (though no one, even for a moment, doubts her amazing ability). Now the chorus assembles in place, all eyes fixed on their conductor through the openings. Emanuel (Mani) is a priceless treasure. No one can get lost because he is mouthing everyone’s lyrics for them while he conducts – a lifesaver! As the First Act draws to its glorious close, the stage is filled with a great ensemble, every voice and instrument in joyous harmony.
And so, similarly, do the events of the Second Act unfold – like those in an intense, colorful dream. Backstage we see Monastatos (Goeran, brother of Karin) hurry by, green-skinned, to cause some mischief in the drama. The mighty guru, Sarastro (Gerald), goes out to bring order and light with his powerful baritone voice. The chorus welcomes him into the temple. Tamino is learning all his lessons well. Papageno is almost learning his lessons (well?). The evildoers are punished. The heroes are rewarded. The princess Pamina (Meta, and later, Dorthe) and Papagena (Theresa) take turns melting all the hearts with their outstanding skills. There is singing and singing and cool Vibrations flowing. Universal Love is victorious! Suddenly, it’s all over. The audience is on its feet, applauding. The stage is full of Sahaja Yogis in beautiful costumes, radiating joy and gratitude. The dream has come true. Shri Mataji smiles down on Her children, and maybe there, among the heavenly beings surrounding Her, Mozart himself nods with heartfelt appreciation.
And this is still the beginning. . . .
Before long, this wave of benevolent creativity is destined to wash over the globe, refreshing hearts everywhere. So many have been elevated by such international, pioneering productions when the collective divinity unleashed by yoga (union) meets creative expression and entertainment.*
The greatest moments came then in Nirmal Nagari (the Canajoharie base-camp) as all performed for Shri Mataji, Her family, and hundreds of our friends and guests out on the informal farmlands. The act of expression, becoming so super-charged with the flow of divine love, was an act of euphoria. The Heart of the Creator was really in each action, bringing it to joyful fruition. Every eye, of viewers and performers alike, shone like a brilliant diamond. The creativity became a collective bond, enveloping everyone. No one felt like being separated after that.
The final word came from a neighboring farmer’s wife who had attended the spectacle. As a couple of us stopped by to say good-bye a few days later, she remarked: “We’re so sad you’re leaving. It was wonderful! Who could have imagined something like that, out here in the fields?!”
(With enlightened imagination, everything is possible.)