Magic Flute, English National Opera, January 2009

This 1988 production by Nicholas Hytner works very well indeed. The large-scale designs by Bob Crowley are wonderful: a huge curved wall that opens at a jagged join, Egyptian hieroglyphs standing out on white marble walls and cut into a bronze backdrop, superb gowns embossed with hieroglyphs for Sarastro’s priests, and wonderful lighting designed by Nick Chelton. The star of the show was Roderick Williams as a wonderfully engaging Papageno in superb voice. His appearance in a bird costume set the scene for his future antics, and the real birds landing on his birdcage only added to the charm of this production. As Pamina we had Sarah-Jane Davies in Act I, replaced by MairĂ©ad Buicke in Act II, who sang well, but with more vibrato than I would like. Robert Lloyd was a fine Sarastro, with strong stage presence, Robert Murray a rather emotionless Tamino, and Emily Hindrichs a queen of the night with strong if somewhat screechy coloratura. Amanda Forbes was Papagena, and Stuart Kale a suitably nasty Monostatos, who evidently took delight in the booing he attracted at the end. The orchestra played beautifully under the direction of Erik Nielsen, who seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.

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