DramaOperaReviewSouth West

The Magic Flute – Bristol Hippodrome

Music: W. A. Mozart

Libretto: Emanuel Schikaneder (t: Jeremy Sams)

Conductor: Damian Iorio

Reviewer: Ivana Galapcheva

It may have been played consistently for over 200 years, but very few times in its history has Mozart’s The Magic Flute seen its hero, Tamino, start proceedings by battling a giant lobster.

Bristol’s Hippodrome provided the setting for Thursday’s performance, offering an intimate space for the WNO’s musicians to please the latest generation of the public at large. The Magic Flute was always intended as an opera for the people; not one for the upper crust. The curtain was raised to continue the tradition.

Returning after a successful run in 2005 and 2015, the Welsh National Opera’s take on the Flute is something of a ‘Mozart meets Magritte’ experience. Painted clouds line the walls of the set, Sarastro’s slaves are dressed like city gents with bowler hats, and the animals captivated by the flute itself are life-sized anthropomorphs wearing high heels and reading the Financial Times.

The Magic Flute is no simple matter for its lead roles. Demanding performances lay a lot of responsibility on the character of Papageno, in particular, who must carry three solos and deliver the comic relief throughout. The Queen of the Night, meanwhile, has some particularly daring vocal contortions to pull off.

While the surrealist concept may be down to taste, the production as a whole was practically flawless – impeccably timed and tuned to perfection. The Thursday night crowd were ready to unwind, and keen to break into applause between certain movements.

The humour of the opera comes in more a form of ‘you had to be there’, with the jokes, one-liners and visual gags cleverly blending the audio with the action on stage, and while the precision timing of Mark Stone as Papageno led the way in quantity, the other characters were warmly received when they were also in on the joke.

Also particularly on-point and warmly received were the characters of the Three Boys, whose presence was felt throughout, whether they were in the foreground, off in a corner, or mostly concealed in holes in the stage – a trick used to fine effect throughout.

The musicians, led by conductor Damian Iorio, are a perfect example of ‘last but not least’. While music blending into the background can be a fault, for this particular occasion it’s a point of merit. The combined talents of the instrumentalists never jostled for attention with the singers on stage, instead they provided the perfect layer of support that never put a foot wrong. A worthy 5 stars for the Welsh National Opera.

Runs until 11th May 2019 | Image: Contributed

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Surrealist & time-honoured

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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