The Magic Flute, 2014

NODA Review

The reviewer's immediate reaction to this was considerable despair as visions of cranky, chaotic, psychological interpretations came to mind. Hope had been placed squarely on a quality musical performance. Not perhaps the best advertising. The discovery that the presentation was in the hands of John Palmer and Peter Blackwood, both of whose previous work the reviewer holds in high regard, did lighten the tension and excellent directions to the theatre from the theatre's website ensured arrival in good time and good parking...

How wrong it was to worry! John Palmer's concept, modernisation and realisation were totally fathomable, entirely appropriate and immensely comedic. Mozart's original is a comedy for all and this version had the audience laughing out loud at the situations, the jokes and the clever re invention of the well-loved original. Everything was recognisable and Mozart was well served. Peter Blackwood's sympathetic and jovial accompaniment aided and abetted the comedy and contrasting seriousness with equal measure, leading the vocalists through the maze of wonderful melodies to the glorious ensemble finale.

The production benefited in no small measure from the quality of the voices. Excellently matched in duets, trios and ensembles, as well as in the solos, the singers gave full measure with clarity, certainty of delivery and some very fine agility. Very well cast, not just for the voices, but for the characterisations and interpretation, the acting was also remarkably relaxed and accessible. Directors and performers brought out all the comedy - even to admitting the humour in the vocal lines and accompaniment. Papgeno's pan pipes proved almost as comic as he himself. Throughout, there were some very humorous touches but never to the detriment of the vocal line.

I could go on about the singing, but it is clear that these beautiful voices are being well cared for without an ounce of over-production. Please continue to look after these wonderful gems.

Using cast members to move props and furniture worked well and could have been more visible. Unfortunately, from row G, the gazebo caused shadows across the performers' faces, often clouding eyes - the windows of the actor. Perhaps some 'shin-busters' could have been employed to eradicate this. The overall simplicity of the design worked well and concentrated the audience's attention on the action. Good use was made of the various entrances and exits and the centre aisle without in any way embarrassment to the audience. In fact, the interplay with the audience in many scenes was in keeping with the style of the original.

The familiar characters, though thoroughly modernised told to a good, intelligible tale with plenty of relevant messages and recognisable situations. The Daily Mail would have a field-day with these peoples' lives. Respect was shown to the master composer without any unwanted hallowedness. This reviewer has sung various roles in numerous concerts and productions of this opera, and thoroughly enjoyed this interpretation from the heights of Lucy Furkin's wrath to the natural inner beauty of Bailee: from the hilarious Goths and the mischievous Gekko to Pippa's comments on men and from Tam's melodic trances to Sebastien's gentle serenity. Congratulations.

With best wishes,

Nick Lawrence
NODA - South West Regional Councillor

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