Having only ever seen The Magic Flute – or die Zauberflöte – in German, I was excited to see it English, to see how it translates.
Unfortunately, the Welsh National Opera (WNO) production wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.
Tamino (Ben Johnson) is confronted by a monster; he passes out but is saved by three women who bring him news that the Queen of the Night (Samantha Hay) wishes him to marry her daughter Pamina (Anita Johnson). If he rescues her. After seeing her picture, Tamino falls in love and vows to accept this perilous quest…
Mozart’s score is delightful, played magnificently by the WNO Orchestra. Singing is also sublime, and Hay performs the Queen’s aria beautifully.
Mark Stone (Papageno) is a talented actor and singer, but it is the facial expressions of the priests and three ladies that really make this show. Their wry humour comes across well, providing an almost sophisticated comedic effect.
Kevin Pollard’s costumes are cleverly designed in a contemporary, surreal fashion, particularly for members of the brotherhood (who are dressed in brightly coloured doorman’s outfits) and the Queen’s dress is exquisite.
While Julian Crouch’s set is forgettable, showing little change between scenes, the use of trapdoors is inspired. This provides a delicate comedy in some scenes and a certain gravitas to others. However, the climax of the production was a little lacking, resulting in the finale feeling early.
In addition, the translation of the opera is disappointing, rendering it too silly and farce-like. Despite the production feeling abridged, there is a lot more speaking than I remember from the original German. Although the silliness is in keeping with Mozart’s personality, certain aspects of this interpretation feel more akin to pantomime than opera.
That said, it is a very accessible form of Opera, which will hopefully encourage more people to attend operatic performances.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Bill Cooper
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