Die Zauberflöte, with Keenlyside, Staples, Bevan, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2013

A new set of principals for Zauberflöte in May saw Simon Keenlyside as Papageno, Andrew Staples as Tamino, Sophie Bevan as Pamina, and Matthew Rose as Sarastro. Albina Shagimuratova, who also sang in April, was a gloriously lyrical and luminescent Queen of the Night, showing a welcome vulnerability in Act I. Combining a melodious voice with superb control of vocal pyrotechnics, she was a joy to hear, and her Act II aria Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen (Hell’s revenge boils in my heart) was a masterpiece of purity and power.

Queen of the Night, © ROH/ Mike Hoban

Queen of the Night, © ROH/ Mike Hoban

As her daughter Pamina, Sophie Bevan — recently voted Best Young Singer at the Opera Awards — exuded a lovely lightness of being, both vocally and in her stage presence. Her Mann und Weib duet with Simon Keenlyside’s Papageno was a charming vignette, beautifully staged with Paule Constable’s warm lighting. Keenlyside himself was a delightful Papageno, whose funny accent in German helped emphasise his simple nature. His singing was wonderful, his movement superb and those little jumps — terrific. He was also very funny, banging into a stone wall by accident at one point.

By contrast, Tamino, so well controlled in his quest for a beautiful wife, was sung and acted with huge sincerity by Andrew Staples. The three main characters in their wish for a partner on life’s journey could hardly be better, and Matthew Rose spoke with great authority as Sarastro, though his singing failed to carry the same weight in the lower register. His presence was excellent however, and the movement and staging by Leah Hausman in this revival of David McVicar’s production was beautifully done. Congratulations also to the Opera House for dedicating this revival to the memory of that fine Mozart conductor, Colin Davis.

Conducting by Julia Jones was assured but lacked a lightness of touch, and I would have preferred more sparkle between singers and orchestra.

Performances with this cast continue until May 9 — for details click here.

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