The Queen of the Abbey: the Magic Flute and Northanger Abbey

In the 2007 ITV adaptation of Northanger Abbey the song Der Hölle Rache or the Queen of the Night’s Aria is used which is from the opera the Magic Flute by Mozart. Now in the scene the novel’s protagonist Catherine Moorland(Felicity Jones) is at the opera watching the Magic Flute with some friends. They are watching the moment were the Queen of the Night sings the above song. Catherine’s friends are the Allens, Isabella Thorpe(Carey Mulligan), Catherine’s brother James and John(William Beck) Isabella’s brother. Catherine looks hopefully across Henry Tilney (J.J Field) who is her main love interest in the story and his sister Eleanor but they both look at her coldly. Meanwhile John who desires Catherine for himself sees her looking at them and comments that Eleanor is attractive but Catherine is better looking. Catherine ignores him as she is more interested in the Tilneys. Now Henry looks at her coldly as Catherine was meant to go out walking with him and Eleanor. However John and Isabella manipulated her into coming on a carriage ride with them instead.

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Catherine and Henry

Now in the Magic Flute the Queen of the Night is angrily telling her daughter Pamina that if she does not kill her rival Sarastro that will she disown her. The Queen of the Night has originally been set up as a good character who manipulates Pamina’s lover Tamino into believing she is good and that Sarastro is evil. Now as the opera goes on this is revealed to be the opposite. Pamina in this scene who sees Sarastro as a father figure and does not want to kill him but also does not want to lose her mother. Therefore she does not know what to do.  Below I will suggest what the use of this song could mean in this adaptation.

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Catherine and Isabella

Firstly I think it could symbolise people appearing to be good on the surface but being the opposite underneath. For example Isabella, John, and Henry’s father General Tilney appear to like Catherine. Nonetheless they all have ulterior motives. Therefore this could foreshadow how Catherine has been deceived by appearances and will realise that these 3 characters are not what they appear to be.

It may also link here to the theme of conflicted parent and child relationships as in this scene in the Magic Flute it too deals with this. Eleanor and Henry in Northanger Abbey have a rocky relationship with their father. This is as they both oppose him in their choices of spouses. He wants them to marry for money. However Eleanor and Henry are only interested in marrying a potential spouse for love.

Finally the song could symbolise the love triangle that has developed. Catherine has to choose between Henry the nice guy and John the bad boy. The creepiness in the song could show the tension that has built up between the three of them as both men are rivals for her affection. Now at the point in this production Catherine I would say has not shown a strong preference for either man. Perhaps slightly more for Henry as she has a sexual fantasy about him while she is in the bath. I suppose she has a sexual fantasy about John too as there is a scene where her and Isabella are in their underclothes discussing him. Here Isabella teases her about him and she appears to blush at the mention of him. Later she falls in love with Henry after spending time at Northanger Abbey. Also after getting to know what John is really like.

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