A magical musical dream

magic flute Tamino

Allan Clayton as Tamino with a collection of furry friends. Pictures: Robert Workman

The Magic Flute

Welsh National Opera

****

IT’S a given that many a good fable starts with a journey to rescue some damsel or bring back a glittering trophy as a challenge, and such is the foundation of Mozart’s final opera, first performed, in Vienna, shortly before his death, in 1791.

This WNO production first appeared in 2005 and performed in English its surreal staging continues to be the setting for a magically entertaining, yet playful opera.

The setting of cloudscapes, opening doors and bowler hats borrow from of Surreal Artist, Magritte’s palette and they certainly help an audience allow for the otherBird Catcherwise irrational elements of the story. With the spoken dialogue adding only marginally to any full explanation of the action it makes it all the easier to just sit back and enjoy the pantomime like performance.

Allan Claytons as Tamino delivers a solid upright performance, beautifully sung and pure in tone. However the performance of South African Jacques Imbralio, his co traveller as the bird catcher, Pagano, with his feathered cost and assortment of musical toys, steals many of the pivotal scenes. Visually reminiscent of Harpo Marx he clowns his way through many of the spoken parts only to be countered then by his excellent vocals.

Sophie Bevan as Pamina and Jacques Imbrailo as Papageno

In contrast to the formality of the boxlike set is the entrance of Samantha Hay in the role of The Queen of the Night who, in a beautiful black gown, sweeps in against a backdrop of stars and smoke. This engulfed conductor Lothar Koenigs for several seconds but thankfully the haze cleared in time for him to continue his affectionate and spirited control of the orchestra.

Hays performance as the Queen was precise and passionate and yet presented an imbalance in many respects. This was due to the fact that contrary to the description of the evil sinful man Sarastro, captor and imprisoner of her daughter, the figure presented by Scott Wilde seemed more a grandfatherly caring figure than that of a powerful mysterious clan leader.

Better in the energy stakes was Sophie Bevan who continues to add maturity to her performances in the role of Pamina adding to her reputation as one the most sought-after young sopranos in the UK.

Several other performances of quality cut through the night. Those were Camilla Robert as the first lady and American opera student Rachel Mills as First Boy. Claire Hampton, while not convincing anyone of not being a youngster in a cloak during her old lady disguise, redeemed herself when she finally unrobed and came to sing.  

The Magic Flute is part of Spellbound the WNO’s spring season and due to its delivery in English and sense of playful fun, assorted furry creatures and humour it is a great entry point for anyone wishing to experience opera for the first time. The flute can be heard playing again on 06-03-15

Jeff Grant

05-03-15

WNO spring tour continues with Hansel and Gretel on 7 March 

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