Magazine article Musical Opinion

English National Opera the Magic Flute

Magazine article Musical Opinion

English National Opera the Magic Flute

Article excerpt

Zauberflöte is my favourite opera. Of the many versions that I have seen, ENO's previous version was the best, both for sets but vision also; it's a hard act to follow.

The first thing you notice with Simon McBurne/s new production, that I saw on 12th November, is that the orchestra has been raised from the pit to be pretty much on the same level as the stage, as it would have been in Mozart's day. Throughout the evening it, under Gergely Madaras, gave rich warm and convincing sounds. Never once did it seem out of touch with the stage.

It started with the snake projected over the entire front, all fangs and slime; here was a snake indeed to be afraid of. But then on wonders Tamino in what looked like his pajamas, then three ladies in what appeared to be combat uniforms before stripping down to body stockings, followed by Papageno in a dirty yellow anorak and my heart sank. Later the Queen of the Night is confined to a wheelchair, the three boys are grey, semi clothed and ancient, relying upon walking sticks. All seemed degraded and dirty and, if I am honest can't quite see why.

Curiously all the stage noise effects, the thunderstorms etc, were visibly added by a man in a glass cubicle to the extreme stage right, no bigger than a phone box. This didn't in my view add anything, I half wonder if it was added to enliven a very dark, stark stage, perhaps even as an afterthought. The stage itself, when devoid of projected imagery was indeed stark with a central rectangle rising and falling, raking and flattening throughout, one thinks to mimic the terrain. The projected imagery was most effective; in addition to the aforementioned snake the trials of fire and water were vividly realised as Tamino and Pamina were engulfed in flame and then suspended in mid air as though swimming. …

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