You are a New York City Parent. You are a busy person. You want to teach your child about music and art and culture. But, who has the time? You do!  Thanks to Lisa Zwerling’s new exhibition, The Magic Flute: Paintings Inspired by Mozart’s Opera, running through October 27, 2012 at the First Street Gallery on 526 West 26th Street, Suite 209, you can kill two peacocks with one F note (if you’re familiar with the opera, you know why this is funny; if you’re not, go see the exhibition and you will).

High Art
But, the exhibit is much more than a colorful introduction to opera and brush techniques.  Even before you and your kiddo arrive at the showing, there is much to be learned.  Taking the 1 train to 28th Street necessitates a Westward walk of several blocks, leading you past the newly refurbished High Line.  Take a moment to climb up the multiple staircases and gaze down upon the entire neighborhood, not to mention the NYC skyline in the distance, and at the funky art deco benches right next to you.  This is Chelsea, the newest hub of New York City’s contemporary art scene.  One day, your child will be able to say they were there at the beginning.  (So take a picture to make certain you can prove it, in case they forget.)

Building Code
The Magic Flute: Paintings Inspired by Mozart’s Opera, is housed on the second floor of the West Chelsea Arts Building.  And it is exactly what you want your child’s first genuine NYC gallery experience to be.  Gray, industrial, with a creaking freight elevator and institutional, white, endless hallways that then somehow miraculously open up into enclaves of color and light.  To sound really in the know, drop the tidbit that, from 1979 to 85, this used to be Funhouse, an electro/break-dancing club.  And that New Order’s video, Confusion, was filmed on-site.  (Then try to explain what a video was, and that MTV actually used to play them.)

The Main Event
As you step through the doors of the gallery, you are greeted by the sweetly wafting strains of the titular Magic Flute.  For those unfamiliar with the story, the gallery provides a paper synopsis of the action, each development helpfully numbered to match the paintings.  The art is mounted to be looked at from left to right, as though reading a particularly vibrant picture book.  The paintings come in canvases of different sizes, shapes and orientations.  The goal is to make the entire narrative feel like a moving film, with close-ups and panoramic shots interspersed as dictated by action.

Bright Light
It’s the colors that capture your attention first, even before the figures they represent come into play.  Brilliant reds, yellows and blues, haunting whites, and vibrant greens dominate every image, pulling you into the story.  There’s plenty of action, including the slaying of a dragon, a flood of near Biblical proportions, a beautiful princess in need of rescue, and a thwarted attack on a temple.  There are also more ethereal images, as ghostly child spirits offer guidance, and flute music is used to soothe the proverbial savage beasts.

Family Fun
Parents should enjoy the exhibition as much as children, and the subject matter is appropriate for everyone from the stroller-strapped (shiny!) to elementary school age (Princesses!  Daggers!  Peacocks!  Lions!) to teens (What exactly is Monostatos trying to do to the sleeping Pamina?  Oooooh, I thought so).

First Street Gallery hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 11:00am am to 6:00 pm.  Visit: http://www.firststreetgallery.net/

We’d love to hear about your experience at the exhibit. Tell us about it in the comments section!

–Alina Adams (Thanks for the photos)

Painting, Tamino Charms the Animals with Music, courtesy of Liza Zwerling!!