ENO weave their magic on Mozart: TULLY POTTER'S review of The Magic Flute

By Tully Potter

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Magic Flute (ENO, London Coliseum)                                                       

Verdict: Inventive staging realises grandeur and comedy

[reviewStars]

Part pantomime, part solemn allegory, Mozart’s last stage masterpiece poses many problems, most enjoyably surmounted by this splendid production.

Like the work itself, ENO’s staging is an inspired combination of the simple — scenery suggested by chalked outlines on a blackboard — and the complicated: Michael Levine’s set makes resourceful use of a suspended platform.

Simon McBurney’s production takes place in a Never-Never Land where chief priest Sarastro is something between a TV presenter and a business tycoon. The fearsome Queen of the Night is an all-too-human elderly cripple with stick and wheelchair.

Lively: Roland Wood and Devon Guthrie in The Magic Flute at the London Colisuem

Lively: Roland Wood and Devon Guthrie in The Magic Flute at the London Colisuem

The tests of fire and water that Tamino and Pamina undergo are vividly represented. The singing is excellent, with Ben Johnson as Tamino and Steven Page as the Speaker outstanding.

Devon Guthrie is an affecting Pamina, Mary Bevan is a pert Papagena and Cornelia Goetz justifies her reputation as a Queen of the Night specialist.

 

James Creswell, though no Robert Radford, projects Sarastro’s rolling bass paragraphs impressively enough. A black Monostatos is too un-PC today, apparently, but Brian Galliford is a suitably revolting white one.

The lyrical side of the birdcatcher Papageno is short-changed by Roland Wood’s throaty baritone and I am sorry to lose his panpipes, although he is good at the comedy.

In all an entertaining evening of sublime music.

Production: Like the work itself, ENO's staging is an inspired combination of the simple

Production: Like the work itself, ENO's staging is an inspired combination of the simple

Dramatic: The tests of fire and water that Roland Wood (Papageno) and Tamino undergo are vividly represented

Dramatic: The tests of fire and water that Roland Wood (Papageno) and Tamino undergo are vividly represented


The comments below have not been moderated.

I thought the production perfect and the singing sublime Roland Wood was a brilliant Papageno (modelled on David Myers? :-)) and I thought his baritone voice was excellent especially when he let it off its leash. Mr Wood's enthusiasm for his part and the apparent ease with which he played it made the evening for me. The staging and sets were fantastic and only once did the platform intrude on the performance (when the two guards were trying to get the trap door open). The Queen of the Night Aria, sung from a wheelchair, drew particular applause but in truth there wasn't a weak part to this Opera nor was there a weak performance. In short a triumph and one which I would like to see again . My advice is to try, by all legal means, to get a ticket to see this production - you won't regret it.

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I think what I found most disappointing about this production was that, as I live way out in the sticks, this is the first London production I have been to see so I expected the singing to be much better than the touring and locally produced operas in my area. You are paying between two or three times the ticket price and, although the Queen of the Night is a challenging part, there must be loads of singers who could have done a better job of hitting those high notes.

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