The Papageno Dream

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This material is not for the faint-hearted. You have been warned.

The Papageno Dream

Papageno's entrance music in the Magic Flute, 'Der Vogelfaenger bin ich ja'

Who knew that a movie by Ingmar Bergman would torment me with dozens of nightmares over the years?

No screwups in my waking hours could ever compare with my nightly struggles to get on stage in time, let alone remember the words to Papageno's initial song. And when you screw up at the beginning of something, chances are you'll be behind the eight ball the rest of the way too.

It started on New Year's day of 1975 when I celebrated the holiday by going to see Ingmar Bergman's Swedish-language version of Mozart's "Die Zauberflöte" (known in English as "The Magic Flute). There's an almost creepy effect during the overture, when the camera pans the audience in close-up.

Them at 14:13 minutes in, you see the singer portraying the birdman Papageno in his dressing room, and he realizes he's in danger of not getting onstage in time. Well, Papageno is a screwup as a character, but blowing his first entrance would have dire consequence for his career. He gets onstage just barely on time.

And for years after seeing the movie, I have crossed over from the audience into the cast as Papageno, and gotten onstage (like the actor in the movie, just in time) and having no idea what words to sing, in any language.

(The year before that I had actually been in an amateur performance of "The Magic Flute," in some duets and quartets and as a "slave" and a chorus member. I dreamed of having a major part, but in my dream what should have been a triumph was a disaster.)

I've had plenty of other embarrassing moments. My pants ripped at the crotch halfway up one of the mountains in the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. I totalled my car and almost killed myself by hitting a median strip guardrail on the last day of November in 2013 (there was snow on the ground, and I almost didn't shift into the next lane to the right in time). I've dropped plenty of dishes in my time, and been unforgiveably rude to innocent people, but it's my disastrous Papageno in a dream that bothers me the most.

It's literally performance anxiety. And fortunately no one else has ever had to know about it, until now.

I'm glad no one ever told Ingmar Bergman about my dream. As if he would care, but still.

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