Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto: Emanuel Schikaneder
Director: Dominic Cooke
Revival Director: Caroline Chaney
Conductor: Lothar Koenigs
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
Mozart’s famous Deutsch opera from Welsh National Opera, The Magic Flute, reveals itself surreally to us in Milton Keynes this week and tells a wonderfully enchanting and fantastic (in all senses of that word) tale which includes a rescuing prince, bien sur, a bird-seller, a pretty princess who is snatched, an evil Queen of the Night, (obviously!) and, yes finally!, the eponymous magic flute. Sounds like a panto and is at times reminiscent of one. First seen in 2005 and now being revived for a second time, this singspiel has proved itself entirely attractive and is assisted by being performed in English, translated by Jeremy Sams.
The story of the opera is somewhat complicated even if it is also (especially in this production) light and cloud-fluffy. However, the music is so beautiful that it can leave one unable to resist singing the lovely Papageno/Pamina duets or even the Queen’s aria! It opens right in the thick of it as a snake is attacking Prince Tamino, our hero, when three ladies in waiting magically appear and save him. They claim to work for the Queen of the Night, whose daughter Pamina has been captured by wicked Sarastro. When Tamino sees her picture it is love! When the Queen makes her awesome entrance she gives Tamino a magic flute to help him in his quest. Tamino’s comedy pal is the bird-seller Papageno, who is so very ingénue and hence the most loveable of all the characters. He is given the magic musical box as an aide. Through their trial and tribulations it all works out as one might expect, or does it? No spoilers here!
Welsh National Opera’s ultra-surrealist take on Mozart’s last opera has to be seen to believed with its Daliesque lobster and the wonderful Rene Magritte sky and that adds much wry humour to the whole – and it works in the same way as some of the one-liners in the spoken sections work include witty, if obvious, local references. Interesting to note just how much dialogue there is compared to the majority of operas. For the director Dominic Cooke and his set designer Julian Crouch this i a chance to extrapolate from the concept of the wacky birdseller to the bowler-hatted men, the orange suits and the umbrellas popping up out of the floor. All tres outré and drôle!
The entire cast is very strong and is wonderfully supported by the large orchestra under the guidance of Lothar Koenigs. Allan Clayton brings us the quasi-dashing Prince Tamino with style, credibility and a rich voice. Pamina is performed with sensitivity by Sophie Bevan, whose lyrical voice really shines through in her aria, but who also demonstrates range in her duets. Papageno, the birdman, played by South African Jacques Imbrailo, is a character who could be easy to overdo but not so here. His performance is just so with excellent comic timing and his tones are mellifluous. Samantha Hay as the wicked Queen of the Night, strutting across the stage in that amazing black dress, is utterly believable and what a powerful voice. Speaking of which, Scott Wilde’s guttural notes in the Sarastro rôle are incredible, worthy of Paul Robeson!
A truly amazing evening! You had to be there.
Photo Bill Cooper | Runs until: 20 March15