Magic Flute, English Touring Opera, ETO, March 2014Posted on 8 March 2014
Producing Mozart’s Magic Flute can be tricky for a touring company, but ETO rises magnificently to the challenge. The contrast between the serious, sombre realm of Sarastro, the lightheartedness of Papageno, the threatening nature of the Queen of the Night’s world, and the magic that brings two couples together is well expressed in a single set fitted with multiple trap doors and a huge window/mirror at the back that allows performers to step onto the main stage.
Liam Steel’s original production, revived here by James Hurley, is rendered hugely effective by Guy Hoare’s excellent lighting, and I liked the clever use of lamps, particularly when Papageno represents the object of his desire with four lampshades and his backpack. Wyn Pencarreg was a natural in the role, his Welsh accent matching that of Caryl Hughes when she appears later as Papagena, and the principal ladies were a delight with their slim figures and attractive features. Anna Patalong sang a beautiful Pamina, so plaintive in her despair when Tamino refuses to speak to her, and Samantha Hay made an elegant queen of the Night with fine coloratura singing in Act II.
Her striking appearance in Act I with a silver-blue train that covered the whole stage later gave way to a more human portrayal, and I welcome the fact that neither she nor Stuart Haycock’s Monostatos were the incarnation of evil. Indeed, Monostatos, shown here with a strangely pigmented face, simply represents one aspect in a tripartite division of masculinity, contrasting with that of Papageno and Tamino. The number three plays a special role in Magic Flute, and the three ladies of the night, and the three ‘boys’ were all well sung by members of this fine opera company.
Ashley Catling sang a noble Tamino, Piotr Lempa a hugely effective speaker, and Andrew Slater was an imposing Sarastro in his golden gown. The white costumes for the members of Sarastro’s temple are well-judged, and this production has a far more Mozartian feel than one I saw recently by another company.
Here the composer is very much in evidence, particularly through James Southall’s excellent conducting which beautifully conveyed the light and shade of the music.
After a second performance at the Hackney Empire on 8th Mar, it tours to: Hall for Cornwall, Truro, 10th Mar; Lighthouse, Poole, 13th Mar; Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, 17th Mar; Snape Maltings Concert Hall, 27th Mar; Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, 3rd, 4th, 5th Apr; Curve, Leicester, 7th Apr; Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, 11th Apr; York Theatre Royal, 15th Apr; The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, 22nd Apr; Norwich Theatre Royal, 27th Apr; The Hawth, Crawley, 5th May; Warwick Arts Centre, 9th, 10th May; Exeter Northcott Theatre, 13th, 14th, 15th May; Gala Theatre, Durham, 19th May; Perth Festival, Perth Concert Hall, 22nd May; Cambridge Arts Theatre, 29th, 39th, 31st May — for details click here.