Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews


The Magic Flute

Welsh National Opera , Wales Millennium Centre , February-15-19
The Magic Flute by Welsh National Opera The very fine skill of guest conductor Damian Iorio is more than confirmed as he raises his baton to take us into Mozart’s wonderful overture and the magic begins. The playing of the Welsh National Opera orchestra is pretty near perfect as they take us through music that reflect, joyously, all the rises and falls of the narrative.

There’s a lot of dialogue in this story so we become well aware of the work of librettist Emanuel Schikaneder and the very up to date translation by Jeremy Sams. The cast show us quickly that acting skills are equally as strong as their dazzling singing.

The curtain rises and we see more magic from Julian Crouch’s enchanting set design, a dozen or more heavy wooden doors set into the deep blue sky, with its ever shifting clouds. Into this alchemy steps a young handsome prince, Tamino, he looks very worried. Ben Johnson gives us charm and vulnerability and sings with a captivating tenor voice. The monsters invade him; huge crab claws emerge from the doors. He sings to God to save him. God’s not listening, he faints.

To his rescue come three young ladies, they are servants of the necromantic Queen of the Night, who we meet later. The trio, Irish soprano, Jennifer Davis, mezzos Kezia Bienek and Emma Carrington sing with a sparkle in their voices and a twinkle in their eyes. They are ‘taken’ with the prone young man. There is a little spat in song, then they leave.

Tamimo revives and meets the iconic, bird-clad, Papageno. Papageno tells us that he captures birds for the Queen of the Night. He complains of his loneliness but with his bells and whistle and the delightful, light baritone of Mark Stone, he gives us a lot of fun.

The three serving ladies return and give Tamino a picture of Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night. He immediately falls in love with her, telling us “This image is enchantingly beautiful”. The ladies tell him that Pamina has been captured by the mean and powerful Sarastro. The Queen of the Night appears and her appearance dominates the stage. She totally captivates us with her masterly control and the beauty of her coloratura. She tells Tamino that if he rescues her daughter from Sarastro she shall be his.

To help him in his quest the serving ladies give Tamino a magic flute that will protect him. They give Papageno magic bells and insist he goes with Tamino. The ladies and the boys finish the first scene with the quintet, Hm! Hm! Hm! Hm!...

They do eventually succeed but first have to go through fire and water (successful stage effects).
But first they have to deal with the despicable Sarastro.

Based on Mozart’s and his librettist’s devotion to Freemasonry, costume designer, Kevin Pollard has given Sarastro and his follower an air of this, taking Reneé Magreet’s painting, the bowler-hatted Son of Man, as a starting point. As well as all the chorus decked out in bright orange coloured bowler hats and orange overcoats they also carry orange umbrellas which come at us in a very surprising manner.

Sarastro himself wears a white bowler hat etc. James Platt’s deep bass notes underline the cruelty inside him. But he gives in, in the end. We hear more strong coloratura from Anna Siminska and more captivating wonder from Anita Watson as Pamina, the young lady at the core of the narrative.

To end the fantasy and the magic Papageno also finds true love with Papagena, a happy smiling Claire Hampton. Their marriage is a big, big success. They continue to create more and more children as the curtain falls.

A delightful fairytale opera that surely has a very wide appeal, ideal as an introduction to the world of opera.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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