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The Magic Flute – an enchanted tale with deeper notes.
I defy anyone to be bored by The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte). One of Mozart’s best-loved operas, it’s a tale of love, of good conquering evil and of a search for wisdom and virtue, with elements of fantasy intertwined by glorious music. This evening, the opening night of David McVicar’s classic production of the Magic Flute (and the seventh revival) at the Royal Opera House is a show I feel I should have seen already…
It was obvious though, from the very start of tonight’s performance, why this production is so well-loved.
The staging is mesmerising at times, simple and yet beautiful. The three boys, sung beautifully by Richard Wolfson, Joshua Abrams and Willam James appear in a Heath Robinson style flying wicker basket, complete with wings, Pappagano lures and catches a puppet bird to prove his prowess and the serpent in the opening sequence looks like a character from a medieval pageant.
The story revolves around love even before first sight – Tamino played by Benjamin Hulett takes one look at a picture of Pamina and falls in love. It is easy for her mother, the Queen of the Night, to persuade him to set off in order to rescue her when he learns she’s been abducted by Sarastro. Tuuli Takala’s effortless performance of the two famous coloratura arias, Der Hölle Rache and O Zittre Nicht, Mein Lieber Sohn from The Magic Flute drew rapturous applause but for me lacked the fiery anger and passion I’d anticipated. Nonetheless a totally credible Royal Opera House debut.
Rodell Rosel’s Monostatos, Sarastro’s evil servant, is foppish, sycophantic and obsequious. His attempts to seduce Pamina are foiled by Papageno played by Vito Priante – Papageno and Pamina escape to search for Tamino. Elsa Driesig making her ROH debut played Pamina with an almost girl next door charm and innocence paired convincingly with an angelic lyric voice.
When Pamina and Tamino eventually meet, in the presence of Sarastro, they make a totally believable couple both vocally and visually. Love at first sight seems entirely appropriate. Sarastro too, played by Andreas Bauer Kanabas, had remarkable stage presence and a wonderfull gravelly bass with an impressive lower range and beautiful diction.
The much-loved role of Papageno, played by Vito Priante, was light, funny, charming, convincing and poignant. As his Papagena, Jette Parker Young Artist Yaritza Veliz, sang beautifully and characterised the role perfectly.
It’s not often I leave an opera wanting to see it all over again, but last night that is just how I felt. There’s such a wealth of young up-coming singers performing so admirably at the Royal Opera House this season and the atmosphere throughout The Magic Flute was electric. If I’m asked to recommend a ‘First Opera’, Magic Flute is one I’d definitely suggest. With a storyline that’s a fairytale with a moral and spiritual twist, it works for adults and kids alike. This stunning production is ably brought to life by a youthful cast, impeccable orchestra and striking staging.
Performances on 1, 4, 8, 12, 16, 18, 22, 25 and 27 November at 7.30 pm
Tickets can be booked online from the Royal Opera House