The figure sketched here is the villainous Queen of the Night from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s famous opera, The Magic Flute. First debuted in 1791, the story was originally written as an opera in the form of a “singspiel,” meaning that the play was performed containing both periods of singing and periods of speaking.Frank Ballard of the University of Connecticut presented this opera using puppets in 1986. These sketches are based upon Ballard’s design of the Queen of the Night character. With her lavish hat and dress and exaggerated facial features, the puppet brilliantly reflects the baroque time period in which the opera was first written.
The design of this puppet was one of the things that stood out most to me upon choosing a puppet on display to interpret and sketch. The Queen of the Night’s dramatically angular face with half-lidded eyes that seemed to constantly say “I am unimpressed” gave the character a unique expressive nature. She seemed so very characteristically proud, posted there on her display pedestal so I knew she’d be fun to characterize into a drawing where I could give her the different facial and body expressions that she could not change as a puppet. The Queen puppet seemed an even more perfect fit when I realized she was from The Magic Flute play that had coincidentally been involved in my life several times before. My father and I saw the opera live at Jorgensen Theater when I was a little girl where my dad bought the soundtrack to the opera and played it over and over for me. Years later, I also found myself performing a piece from the play in my school orchestra. The Queen of the Night seemed like a perfect fit for me to sketch.