Reviewed by Ann Durrell
The Magic Flute is for all intents and purposes a Viennese pantomime or fairy tale, a comedic tale of good vs evil. The hero, Prince Tamino, is saved from a serpent by three of the Queen of the Night’s ladies in waiting. They show him a picture of the Queen’s daughter Pamina who he instantly falls in love with, his quest become rescuing her from the evil Sarastro, aided by Papageno a strange bird catcher who lives in the woods.
In this, Opera North’s first production of the Magic Flute in 10 years, director James Bridley has tried to make the opera more ‘now’. I believe the opening scenes were to depict the production as being a dream sequence of a young girl, put to bed whilst her parents had a dinner party. The girl is around throughout most of the production clutching a teddy bear dressed in bright yellow. Then randomly Prince Tamino appears being attacked by something out of a 1960’s B -Movie.
The Queen’s ladies in waiting appear with blood stained aprons and light sabres, I admit to referring to them to my companion as the Ninja Nuns! The two priests look like they would be more comfortable in the Matrix and as a whole Sarastros realm reminded me more of the Handmaids Tale. The three boys were dressed as some kind of boy scout which I also didn’t get. The magic flute has become symbolised as a light stick and the silver bells some kind of light up music box. Coupled with what I felt was over use of video projection, I just didn’t get it. I think it’s an acquired taste.
Apart from that, musically Opera North do not disappoint. Samantha Hay makes her Opera North debut as Queen of the Night and she is simply outstanding, her aria was breathtakingly good! We were forewarned before the curtain came up that John Savournin – Sarastro was suffering from a cold and hoped it would not affect the performance, I certainly saw no evidence of this, his range and especially at the lower end of his range was faultless. Gavan Ring was an excellent Papageno, he was likeable, funny and vocally was on point throughout. The entire company are bursting with talent.
My preference is obviously for a more traditional production, not everyone is the same. I would recommend giving it a go purely on the vocal performances. If you shut your eyes you could ignore the Ninja Nuns!!
Tickets cost from £12 to £60 (booking fee may apply).
Opera North’s The Magic Flute is at The Lowry in Manchester from 5-9 March 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.thelowry.com or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000