05 June 2019 (released)
06 June 2019
Mozart meets Jules Verne meets H. G. Wells meets Steampunk in this visually riveting performance of THE MAGIC FLUTE at Edinburgh’s prestigious Festival Theatre – performed by the equally prestigious Scottish Opera!
Debatably The Magic Flute may well be the most popular of all of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera's, genius that he was, and they are all brilliant. Some of our more highbrow critics may opt for Don Giovanni, but when it comes to commercial appeal DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE is the one! Scottish Opera has a deservedly high reputation, even further enhanced by this truly inspired production. 'Steampunk' is a relatively newish trend and this production leans heavily in this direction, while at the same time the inventive mechanical devices of H. G: Wells and Jules Verne also heavily inspired this production. The result works only too well. Finding a fault with this revival of Sir Thomas Allen's 2012 production is next to impossible. Such are the creative ideas behind it that it may well serve as a template for schoolchildren and works as a means to interest the younger generation in opera.
Ostensibly The Magic Flute (here performed in English) is a pantomime fairy tale complete with a cast of O.T.T. characters in which our bold hero Prince Tamino (Peter Gijsbertsen - tenor) is rescued from a (steam-engineered) serpent by the Three Ladies (Jeni Bern, Bethan Langford, Sioned Gwen Davies respectively) who are in the employ of The Queen of the Night (Julia Sitkovetsky - coloratura soprano) who herself holds magical powers. The Queen promises her daughter Pamina (Gemma Summerfield – soprano) to the Prince if he will rescue her from the clutches of the wicked Sarastro (Dingle Yandell – bass). This sounds good to Tamino who sets off on a perilous journey into darker realms accompanied by the lovable and forever chirpy birdman Papageno (nicely realised by Richard Burkhard – baritone), who in turn is accompanied by the Three Boys – dressed in white and floating mid-air holding propeller-operated umbrellas – what a sight! Meanwhile, Pamina’s attempt to escape Sarastro fails and she finds herself recaptured by his sinister servant Monostatos (Adrian Thompson) and his slaves. As Tamino arrives at the temple of wisdom, reason and nature he learns that Sarastro represents in fact virtue and enlightenment – the latter particularly interesting for the creative minds of Wells and Verne.
Act 2 has holds ever more surprises and twists in store, including a hilarious first meeting between Papageno and Papagena (Sofia Troncocsco – soprano).
As is usual with Mozart there is an absolute plethora of unforgettable arias and duets scattered throughout. The Queen of the Night's tricky aria (so loved by the appallingly out-of-tune Florence Foster Jenkins) is deftly handled by Julia Sitkovetsky. Papageno's comic aria is a classic piece of entertainment, here performed with his metal automaton referred to as 'Metal Mickey' (in centuries past 'Maazel's Chess Player' would more readily have sprung to mind). Gemma Summerfield’s ‘Pamina’ must be commended for her memorable tonal range. and Papageno works very hard succeeds very well as our M.C. of sorts as such he will have a 'classless' accent but can hardly sing with such an accent. Equally enchanting is the famous duet between Pa-Pa-Papageno and Pa-Pa-Papagena (dressed in an eclectic mix between Victorian music hall and Steampunkeuse) and oh my, they see themselves surrounded by numerous rocket-shaped prams!
There are so many amusing touches throughout this production it’s impossible to mention them all. Simon Higlett’s inventive set is simply awe-inspiring and lighting designer Mark Jonathan emphasises it. Veteran Cabaret-performer Kit Hesketh-Harvey's new English translation is littered with workable witticisms.
THE MAGIC FLUTE performs at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh on these dates:
June 9th / 11th / 13th (www.capitaltheatres.com)
(Photo by James Glossop - 2019)