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4th April 2019

Review: Opera North’s The Magic Flute

Jay Darcy reviews Opera North’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute
Review: Opera North’s The Magic Flute
Photo: © Alastair Muir.

The Magic Flute is Mozart’s mystical masterpiece. The production value of this performance was superb. The set (Colin Richmond) mainly consisted of several massive doors, complete with several of their own windows, that could be moved around by the actors. It was amazing how many set-ups and configurations they created from several of the same basic set pieces.

Indisputably the most magical element of this performance, though, was the lighting (Chris Davey): I have never seen such incredible stage lighting. The doors worked as brilliant projection screens, but Opera North thought of several other ways to project their beautiful moving images. In the first act, the Queen’s ladies lifted a blanket, and a video of Pamina was projected onto it. In the second act, a transparent screen covered the stage-front; as Tamino and Pamina waved the magic flute, incredible projections, such as roaring flames, appeared on the screen. It really was magical.

A standout performance was Gavan Ring as the hilarious Papagino. The contrast between his friendly Irish accent and divine singing voice was impressive. I particularly liked how he broke the fourth-wall, especially when he acknowledged the show’s signer. It was great that the performance included a sign language interpreter, they received roaring applause at the curtain call. Papagino was a welcome contrast to the more intense moments of the opera.

The Queen’s ladies (Lorna James, Helen Évora and Amy J Payne) were also brilliant. Whilst other productions present them as glamorous, Opera North dressed them like nurses with bloody aprons and lightsabers – a truly modernised opera!

The main characters, Tamino and Pamina, were your typical fairytale lovers, desperate and irritating. I was hoping for an ending like Romeo & Juliet style ending, but there was no tragic ending. I was impressed to see the casting of Kang Wang and Vuvu Mpofu, both people of colour playing two of the biggest roles in the opera, both of their singing voices delightful.

The famous Queen of the Night’s second aria is very demanding, the vocal range covering two octaves (F4 to F6) and requiring a very high tessitura. The Queen only appears three times in the performance . Samantha Hay’s performance as the Queen in this production; she was truly captivating. Also, the Queen’s glamorous dress and Sarastro’s opulent caped suit were standout costumes.

Unfortunately, I did get confused with the plot. Whilst the actors sung in English, opera singing can be difficult to understand. I would have preferred we had subtitles, as they were provided at previous Opera North performances such as The Merry Widow.

Whilst this production did not make me an opera convert, I am very glad I experienced Opera North’s incredible adaptation of Mozart’s classic.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

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