It's not the boldest of statements to make to say that Adult Swim's popular adult animated show Rick and Morty bears more than a passing resemblance to existing works…most notably and famously, Back to the Future. However, if we go back a little further than 1985 (or even 1955 or the old west), Rick and Morty has quite a few similarities with one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's most famous operas: The Magic Flute.
Bird Person: Believe it or not, there is a precedent for a character who is a bird-like male humanoid creature: Papageno, the comic relief bestie sidekick from, you guessed it, The Magic Flute. Papageno is technically a "birdcatcher" according to the libretto, but he frequently sings in a chicken or aviary-like cadence and is usually costumed in feathers like a bird person. Though their story functions are quite different, they both enjoy partying and having a good time and do find love and marry in their respective stories. Though we don't see Papageno's wedding in the opera, we can only hope it's nowhere near as violent of an affair as Bird Person's.
Council of Ricks: The Magic Flute is widely believed to be an allegory for the Freemasons, with the temple of the sun being the stand-in for the organization. They're led by a questionably shady leader with someone likely pulling the strings behind the man in power and gunning for his position…sound familiar? Rick and his council of other Ricks are a lot like the not-freemason temple of the sun and their leader Sarastro.
Queen of the Night: This one is a little tricky because the Queen of the Night is such an iconic baddie – she literally threatened her daughter into killing her biggest enemy. Though Rick and Morty have faced several evil alien queens, none match the vengeance levels of the Queen of the Night quite as well as the Beth Mytholog. Trying to kill your family and take over the world? Pretty standard evil queen stuff. Though, speaking of baddies, there is Concerto, the virtuosic villain from the infamous pickle rick episode – quality musical "E-splat" pun there.
At the end of the day, The Magic Flute is an operatic fairy tale written and staged 230 years ago and Rick and Morty is a modern subversive take on typical storytelling tropes…so it makes sense that the show borrows heavily from existing properties (especially such a classic "fairy tale") whilst putting their own spin on the characters and stories. I just wonder if Mozart, the petty composer with a thing for butts, would be flattered or offended. Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, you have some explaining to do to one corpse-ified Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Rick and Morty season 5 premieres on Adult Swim starting June 20; and if opera, fairy tales, or wacky stories involving bird people are your thing, please support the arts and attend a production of The Magic Flute, if possible.
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