In 1984, Jonathan Miller gave an interview to the Style section of the Washington Post in which, among other things, he enthusiastically outlined his vision of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” “In his own production,” wrote Sandy Rovner, the Queen of the Night “is the Empress Maria Theresa, and the opera is about light and reason and Freemasonry.”
In 2012, Jonathan Miller gave an interview to me at the Washington Post in which he waxed lyrical about his “Magic Flute” interpretation, and said, with some pride, “I know who [the Queen of the Night] is... She’s the Empress Maria Theresa.”
If it were a sin to repeat oneself over the years, music critics would all be in trouble. But Jonathan Miller’s interviews seem to have solidified into a kind of acrobatic act-cum-comedy routine in which the same things appear, year after year — as his productions revive, over and over.
Miller is in town to rehearse his “Cosi fan tutte,” in a production that originated in 1995 at Covent Garden, for the Washington National Opera, where it opens Saturday. I sat down with him a couple of weeks ago and had, as always, an extremely diverting conversation, which I wrote about in this Sunday’s Arts section: Jonathan Miller brings shopworn brilliance to Washington.
A secret of Miller’s success is that he represents operatic theatrical innovation for people who don't like innovation very much. Still, there have been some good productions over the years, and it’s striking that he hasn’t directed in Washington yet. Have you seen any Jonathan Miller productions — like the Rigoletto he set in the Mafia underworld of mid-20th-century New York?
Above: a video preview of Jonathan Miller’s “Traviata,” which came to the New York City Opera earlier this month, with some clips of Miller offering his favorite quotes.