Review: WNO - The Magic Flute @ WMC
Like with Hansel and Gretel, another classic production has been revived by WNO. Along with Berg's Wozzeck, The Magic Flute was the first new production in their newly-made Wales Millennium Centre, over ten years ago. Seeing it again, you get the feeling that the first production was getting used to the huge stage they had just acquired at the time. This could have fitted well at the New Theatre, but as the years go by, the shows just keep getting bigger and bigger.
Lovers of Rene Magritte and, to a lesser extent, Salvador Dali, will relish this simple, surrealist take on the murky waters of Mozart's Freemason opera (lots of symbolism, with the number 'three' scattered everywhere). It hasn't aged much, only the Yorkshire accents lose it some credibility - put on by some of the male chorus members. Post-overture, the opening with the dragon (no spoilers over what the dragon is here; the trailers will give it away!) is a hilarious and grand start to a curious and mainly charming night.
The two stand-out singers were Jacques Imbrailo, as the original Birdman Papageno, and Samantha Hay, playing The Queen of the Night. With his thick South African accent and gullible and sensitive nature, Imbrailo's enjoyment in doing one of opera's funniest roles is evident from the very beginning. A weird touch is when, at one point, he is unable to sing due to a trap in his mouth; he merely tries to sing, which is as Mozart intended.
Hay got to grips wth a complex Mozartian role. With only two arias, The Queen must deliver mighty high notes of surprising grace and eloquence. Hay pulled this off, all the while in the same lavish and dark-coloured costumes. Though the famous second aria, Der Holle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen (The vengeance of hell boils in my heart) may have been rushed, it is still a total marvel to hear live. It's an aria that fills me with utter joy and astoundment, even with the morbid subject matter.
I missed Sophie Bevan as Pamina, but instead saw a fairly decent Anita Watson. Benjamin Hulett was a generic Tamino, but sang with a great warmth and heroic nature, as is required for the role. The rest of the cast were also a very good lot and sang from experience and with an inspired degree of professionalism.
With trap doors galore and a chorus clad in bright orange suits, this is certainly a production that will be noticed and still maintain style, charm and imagination.
See it in Cardiff when it returns for WNO's summer season.
Rating: 3 Stars
Welsh National Opera continues with more performances of The Magic Flute in their summer season, A Terrible Innocence. Also to be performed is the UK premier of Richard Ayres' Peter Pan and a new production of Debussy's Pelleas and Melisande.
- Review: WNO - Chorus! @ WMC (25.03.15)
- Review: La Traviata @ SDH (25.03.15)
- Review: WNO - Hansel & Gretel @ WMC (17.03.15)
- Review: Rigoletto @ SDH (10.03.15)
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Photo Credits: Robert Workman