The genius of that 2001 production was that it felt like it had been put on by a high school with the best singers in the world. It was adolescent joy, with one image that stayed with me. Rodney Gilfry as Papageno the bird catcher, wearing a fool's cap and bells in a costume with more colors than Joseph's coat, was singing on stage while a rowboat on wires sailed overhead, carrying three boys dressed like Harry Potter, with his glasses. Young magicians, "Magic Flute," makes sense.
Who would they put in the boat a decade later? A Harry Potter reference now would seem like product placement, not a little wink.
If we look to the Young Adult shelf now for another character type to use as a little reference point, we find death. In the last decade, the four types being found on the shelves of Young Adult Fiction have replaced all previous human character types. We no longer have anima/animus, ego/id/superego, saint/sinner.
We have Wizards, Werewolves, Zombies and Vampires.
Wizards know that the world is made of light and dark, and struggle to keep faith with the light. They're a weakened force now, frustrated by the way spells dissipate in time, and too dependent on magic wands and hybrid cars. Ten years ago, children wanted to be Harry Potter, but now they want to be vampires, the type most drawn to power, anything not to be exposed out as a zombie, while the werewolves, like real wolves, are hated and hunted.
Obama was elected by the wizard brigade, a children's crusade. Obama read "Harry Potter" to his Sasha and Malia. It is inconceivable that he's reading them the vampire books. The wizards are in bad shape now because, being young wizards, they had too much faith in undefined Hope and not enough clarity about policy and compromise, which is to say, they'd forgotten that the dark side runs through all of us. But who can blame the wizards for wanting to regress, seeing as they do that they're surrounded now by Zombies, the tea baggers, a growling mob of brain-dead idiots led by the Vampires.
There's not much to say about the Zombies among us. The Zombies are the muddled herd of the maggoty brain-dead, reduced by their confusion to singular obsessions. What upsets them about Obama's origins is that he has actual proof of human birth. They are the Living Dead in George Romero's shopping mall, no money, no credit, still shopping. They're the embarrassing reflection of our lives, which is why Zombies have changed from nightmare flesh-eaters to comic punch lines, although it's not really a joke that we've set the Zombies on the cover of Jane Austen novels; this is a kind of evil, but again, ours is a culture that resents life, so it makes sense that we'd send emissaries back in time to ruin our heritage with mockery.
Vampires, like wizards, know that the world is made of light and dark, and want to seduce the living into the night. The Vampires are telling us two great seductive lies. There's the "True Blood" lie: "I don't need human blood, I have a substitute now." There's the "Twilight" lie: "I'm a vegetarian now. Those other Vampires are bad, and the Werewolves are bad, but I'm good, you can trust me, you can love me."
The Vampires are the aristocracy of the undead, who can, at least, talk. The Vampires are the fear mongers, the talk show hosts, the politicians who can't find a way to give health insurance to children, much less adults; the bankers, Ponzi schemers, drug company lobbyists, the theologians of prosperity. We can't understand them without first considering why they're in a symbolic war against the Lycanthropes.
Toby Barlow's "Sharp Teeth" has the answer; it's an epic poem about rival packs of werewolves in L.A. I shouldn't be surprised it's not that well-known, because at this moment, in our culture of necrosis, Vampires are sexier than lycanthropes, and as dangerous as werewolves are, they're still just dogs, and there's always something to love about dogs. Dogs always have a heart, and more often than not, a good to reason to bite.