A bewitching coming-of-age adventure with floating trees, a totalitarian state, and nurses armed with lightsabres. This is the Opera North’s latest version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Although this may sound a little jarring, I can assure you this show is definitely worth the watch.
I went to the Theatre Royal in Nottingham to celebrate a friend’s birthday and we all had quite high expectations as this was the only opera we had listened to before, albeit many from childhood films like the Prince & Me. Although it felt slightly long, just shy of three hours, the exciting world created through the wonderful song made the time fly by.
The Magic Flute is beautiful tale about growing up, discovering your way in the world and learning to love. The element of imagination in the story completely is utterly captivating and provides many twists and turns that emulate dreams. Audiences are invited to join Prince Tamino on his quest to rescue Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night who is held captive. His journey soon becomes one of discovery, for nothing is quite as it appears. Going into further detail with the plot may result in simplifying some of the elements that made the show so full of powerful drama as it is very complex about love, family, and the power of imagination.
Opera North’s version was adapted from the original German to English which initially left me questioning whether the rhymes would be too crammed in to fit with the music. I felt, however, that the music conductor George Jackson did a good job to ensure this did not occur. The incredible vocals of the cast also guaranteed that the language change did not feel contrived. Personally, the stand out performance of the evening was by Samantha Hay who performed the famous Queen of the Night, Aria. Never once wavering, her performance was faultless and seemingly effortless. Her dazzling vocal dexterity combined with her elaborate costuming and dark lighting, proved for a striking moment.
Colin Richmond, the costume and set designer, did a fantastic job of creating something so beautiful and luxurious. The set was always changing and moving which helped maintain the audience’s attention. The movement of the walls in particular created new shapes and locations along with the addition of abstract expressionistic set pieces. Often, the set changes would feel a little clunky but this hardly mattered given that majority of the transitions were smooth. The trees hanging from above were my favourite part of the set as they were central element of creating this dark fantasy world, complementing against the mad costume of Papageno.
Something that was surprising to me was the complex video design by of Douglas O’Connell that was incorporated into the set design. Moving floral designs, relevant to the context, were projected brilliantly, generating an incredible fantasy image on stage. In the opening scene which occurs in both a child’s bedroom and her father’s formal dinner, gauze itself is used to brilliant effect throughout, constructing one of the most visually interesting and multi-layered openings I’ve seen.
A colourful and imaginative play, Opera North’s The Magic Flute is a wonderful opera that offers something uniquely magical and takes one back to their childhood. The conductor keeps the music going along in a way that even newbies to the opera would feel at ease. The impressive singing will leave you speechless in certain parts and, of course, the great Queen of the Night nails the piccolo notes. An exquisite opera to watch.
image 1 writer’s own