The Magic Flute, - Welsh National Opera Review

The Magic Flute, - Welsh National Opera Review

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Posted 2023-05-06 by dpmfollow

Wed 03 May 2023 - Fri 05 May 2023

You have to hand it to Welsh National Opera as a company that doesn’t sit on its laurels. Its new production of The Magic Flute is the classic opera – but definitely not as we know it. The team have made changes to the story, altered some of the characters, created a modern translation and set it in a colourful world of strong imagery and fantastic costumes.

Mozart’s plot has befogged generations of audiences and opera experts, leading to countless conspiracy theories about hidden messages in its story. And its general confusion is both a temptation and an opportunity for directors and designers to create something really fantastical. In a work with realms of night and day, giant serpents, magical musical instruments and ordeals by fire, there is certainly plenty of material to play with.



Directed by Daisy Evans, this new production aims to bring The Magic Flute up to date. In a world influenced by both the #metoo and Black Lives Matter movements, it is perhaps the time to look at some of the references in the opera to both race and women’s roles and the team have dealt with both of these issues. Any racial overtones have been removed and the women in the piece are stronger, with more agency over their own choices and destinies.

The changes to the story help not only to make it more relevant but alsoo to clarify some of its aspects. So for example by making leader of the Realm of the Day Sarastro the father of Pamina it balances out his fight with the Queen of the Night. They are not just fighting for dominion but for the future of their daughter.

Evans’ determination to ensure the audience understands these connections is a little heavy-handed. It is clearly explained in the libretto and she could give the audience the benefit of the doubt that they will follow the story but instead, she creates a mimed prologue which aims to set the scene - but actually is pretty confusing.



Evans has created a new English translation of the libretto and again has ensured this is full of modern relevance. The language is current, the references clear and it slips into some moments of pure genius – such as when the birdcatcher Papageno meets Prince Tamino and calls him a ‘posh git’.

The stage sets and costumes by Loren Elstein also give the production plenty of texture. The set is a series of revolving staircases which take us between the two realms easily and without any clunky set changes and the costumes are futuristic with strong shapes, bold colours and detailed designs. The bright lighting, designed by Jake Wiltshire, adds an additional dimension to these designs, signifying the different realms with different colours.

There is a feeling that perhaps we’ve gone a step too far though when the magic flute which is handed to Tamino is a light sabre and the bells for Papageno are some form of large drumstick with brightly coloured balls on the end. While this adds to the science-fiction feel of the production, it is also incongruous when Tamino has to play the flute and instead waves it around the stage like a conductor’s baton.

Performances across the cast are strong with Samantha Hay as a glorious Queen of the Night whose famous Aria is a highlight of the show. Raven McMillon’s Pamina veers between a childlike innocence and a powerful determination to make her own way through the drama. Quirijn de Lang brings a good deal of humour to the birdman Papageno who is followed throughout by bird puppets.

The orchestra, conducted by Frederick Brown, ensure a richness and beauty to Mozart’s wonderful score so that despite the wow factor of the staging, the music remains at the heart of the opera.

WNO and the team have certainly created a Magic Flute for today and one which brings a new perspective to the story, reminding us that a classic work can always be retold.
At Birmingham Hippodrome until 5 May, followed by WNO’s Blaze of Glory! on 6 May, see https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/

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!date 3/5/2023 -- 5/5/2023
78333 - 2023-05-05 10:49:30

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