Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Director: Dominic Cooke
Conductor: Lothar Koenigs
Reviewer: Marina Spark
Every opera should begin with a man being pursued by a giant shrimp. This opening sets the scene very well for one of Mozart’s more bizarre operas, The Magic Flute. The opera is full of magic, misunderstanding and metaphor. The hero, Tamino, is chased by this monstrous shrimp into the realm of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night. He meets a few interesting characters along his journey of self-discovery. Dominic Cooke’s direction has made for a very funny, quirky show, filled with laugh out loud moments.
Originally by Emanuel Schikaneder, the libretto’s English translation is by Jeremy Sams. Unusually, the words and lyrics are spoken and sung so clearly by the cast that the surtitles are almost redundant. This is a welcome change to many operas performed in English, where the words are usually incomprehensible. This is testament to the very talented cast.
The cast playfully delivers the action. Tamino (Benjamin Hulett) is the heroic youth who loyally searches for his love, Pamina, played by Anita Watson. Watson plays the character with a sweet lightness that is truly endearing. Her duet about friendship with Papageno, the bird catcher, is very touching. Papageno, played by Jacques Imbrailo, steals the action in the opera. He has all the punchy, humorous one-liners and a few solos. Likewise, Imbrailo delivers the performance of the evening. His performance is faultless; technically brilliant, clear and amusing. The Queen of the Night, played by Samantha Hay, and Sarastro, played by Scott Wilde, are two sides of the same coin and, put simply, represent lightness and darkness in the world. Sarastro is wise, rational and generous. The Queen is vengeful, quick to anger and manipulative. Hay plays the Queen with zeal and delivers her complicated arias impeccably. The WNO chorus is, as always, on top form and the orchestra plays perfectly. Lothar Koenigs’ conducting of the fantastic Welsh National Opera makes for some stunning pieces.
There is very little to fault with this opera. One small criticism is of Cooke’s choice not to have Tamino’s character played by a flautist. On the couple of occasions that the timing is off, it is glaringly obvious that an (albeit talented) flautist in the orchestra is playing the magic flute.
On the whole this is a very enjoyable opera performed by an excellent company. Make your way down to Plymouth’s Theatre Royal to see it.
Runs until2nd April 2015.