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Review: The Magic Flute at Birmingham Hippodrome

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Welsh National Opera Version Sung In English
This popular production of Mozart's The Magic Flute from Welsh National Opera (WNO) is like a comfy blanket, nestling you in a relaxing aura of tranquility and cheer.

WNO The Magic Flute1
Surreal scenery in the popular Welsh National Opera production of The Magic Flute


Since its creation in 2005, it has done the rounds a few times in Birmingham and still draws in audiences as it is a gentle crowd-pleaser.

Part of its success is because Dominic Cooke's witty version is an easily accessible opera - it's sung in English, has parts of the plot acted out and spoken (unlike most operas), but most importantly, there's the fantastic score and songs by Mozart and talented WNO singers doing it justice.

Visually, it's striking too. With imagery that brings art from Dali to mind, there's a giant lobster and boys singing from a flying cycling contraption shaped like a fish. Inhabitants of the temples of reason, nature and wisdom are resplendent in full suits and bowler hats of vivid orange, red and blue.

Most of the action is set in a room in the sky with numerous huge wooden doors leading from it and holes in the floor from where various characters pop up with their bowler hats and walking canes. It's very much a case of as one door closes, another storyline opens.

WNO The Magic Flute3
Vivid scenes with bowler hats in The Magic Flute


The plot is a fluffy, fun romantic adventure that sees Prince Tamino sent to rescue Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night, from kidnappers with the help of a Magic Flute. However, all is not what it seems when he finds Pamina and falls in love.

Tamino is aided by the naughty but likeable bird-catcher Papageno, who steals the show with his antics and own search for love. He may not have the best songs but you know a smile is not far away every time the lively Daniel Grice, playing Papageno, walks on stage.

Music-wise, the singing is excellent, particularly from Kathryn Lewek as the Queen of the Night and her three ladies in waiting - Camilla Roberts, Maire Flavin and Emma Carrington. While Elizabeth Watts brings a fine emotional quality to the singing voice of Pamina.

WNO The Magic Flute2
Kathryn Lewek has a mesmerising voice as the Queen of the Night


This production of The Magic Flute is a carefully crafted piece of theatre, however, it doesn't quite have the dramatic 'wow' factor that regular opera-goers may be used to and some may feel that this is a light option for what they normally see.

But as an introduction to opera or an enjoyable night out hearing classic Mozart, you won't go far wrong with this eccentric, dreamy but entertaining production as it both comforts and amuses.

Rating: 7/10

The Magic Flute from Welsh National Opera
Birmingham Hippodrome
Final performance Friday June 12 at 7.15pm.

WNO will also perform Pelléas and Mélisande at Birmingham Hippodrome on Saturday 13 June at 7.15pm as part of its Summer Season - A Terrible Innocence.

Tickets cost from £16 from the Birmingham Hippodrome website

The Magic Flute Cast and Creative

Conductor - Simon Phillippo
Tamino - Benjamin Hulett
Pamina - Elizabeth Watts
Papageno - Daniel Grice
Sarastro - Scott Wilde
Speaker - Ashley Holland
Queen of the Night - Kathryn Lewek
First Lady - Camilla Roberts
Second Lady - Máire Flavin
Third Lady - Emma Carrington
Director - Dominic Cooke
Set Designer - Julian Crouch
Costume Designer - Kevin Pollard
Lighting Designer - Chris Davey
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Why? Experience the magic of Mozart
When: Welsh National Opera in Birmingham Until June 13
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome
Cost: From £16
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