21 January 2015
Reviewed by Cathy Porteus
Magical Mozart by Candlelight is a compilation of movements and songs from all stages of the great composer’s career. Contrarily, it started with his last symphony no 40, then progressed through extracts of his great operas: The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte and The Marriage of Figaro.
There were just 3 singers and 7 musicians on the stage but between them they did a great job of showing off the best bits of Mozart’s many musical pieces. The show was divided into 2 acts, each with 17-18 different pieces performed. A mix of instrumentals and songs, all members of the cast were able to show off their musical skills, which were of a high standard all round. The European Orchestral Baroque ensemble all seemed to be very talented and the crowd showed their appreciation throughout the performance.
The show was compered by the sole male singer David Milner-Pearce, who introduced some of the pieces and explained their context in Mozart’s career. I would have been happy to have heard a bit more about the songs but what we did hear was interesting.
The ‘candlelight’ was provided by covered lamps on the stage and the auditorium lights were dropped to provide more of an atmosphere. I wasn’t sure whether they were real candles or possibly small battery powered tea lights to avoid a fire risk but either way they were quite an original touch. There was minimal scenery, just a chair and a chaise longue, but the 3 singers made the most of their facial expressions to act out the emotions of the songs. The baritone David Milner-Pearce had a particularly malleable face, made for comedy in particular.
The female singers Diana Evgenieva Vasileva and Li Li both had lovely voices, I was particularly impressed with Diana’s higher range. Li Li also played the part of a young boy in one of the latter pieces, with slicked back hair and breaches she just about got away with it. The musicians were dressed as mini-Mozarts complete with white wigs, which was fun. The singers wore a selection of evening wear, some of which looked a little tired and the costumes didn’t always seem to be of the same period, although this was a minor detail.
Many of the audience would already be familiar with most of the tunes but in some areas I wasn’t 100% sure which piece was being performed. This was partly because I couldn’t read the programme in the unlit auditorium. Perhaps the dark print on a dark background could be adjusted for higher contrast so that future audiences would be able to consult the running order during the show. This didn’t really affect my enjoyment though, as in the second half I gave up trying to work out which songs fitted together and just sat back and enjoyed the music.
The Plaza is a great venue for live music and it was a shame that there wasn’t a bigger audience for this show. It was unfortunately rather cold inside the theatre and we were glad for the hot drinks available in the art deco café at the break.
There was a touch of feedback from the sound system, particularly when there was just the compere talking, however most of the time the sound quality was good. We very much enjoyed our evening and it made me want to listen to more Mozart and make an effort to see a whole opera soon.
The Plaza, Mersey Square, Stockport, Cheshire. SK1 1SP | 0161 477 7779