Touring – reviewed at The Lowry, Salford
Guest reviewer: Daniel Shipman
Opera North’s new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute takes the composer’s final opera and brings out the fantastical and often comedic elements of what can at times be a dark story – several characters contemplate suicide on stage, but this version avoids ever feeling bogged down in these darker moments.
The story follows Prince Tamino (Kang Wang) as he sets out to rescue Princess Pamina (Vuvu Mpofu) at the request of her mother, the Queen of the Night (Samantha Hay). Tamino soon discovers that the situation is not as clear cut as it first seems, but we are still granted our fairy tale happily ever after. Jeremy Sams’ English translation is witty and timeless with rhymes which frequently elicit laughs and land satisfyingly on the ear.
James Brining’s direction gives the production modern flourishes without ever feeling gimmicky. The projections, designed by Douglas O’Connell, lend a fantastical element to the events which occur on stage but the perspective is occasionally thrown off for anyone who is not sat directly facing the stage, which is a significant oversight in a production of this scale. Colin Richmond’s set opens the show brilliantly, although the re-positionable white walls which make up the set for much of the second act soon become quite tiresome and bland to look at when compared to the fantasy and variety of the first act.
As the Queen of the Night, Samantha Hay lends the production a gorgeous and powerful voice with the stage presence to match. Her delivery of one of most Mozart’s iconic arias is nothing short of breathtaking. However, the show is well and truly stolen by Papageno (Davan Ring). Despite being consigned to a sub-plot in which he is in constant pursuit of a wife, Ring elicits by far the biggest cheer at the end of the evening and it is well deserved. His comic interludes are the most enjoyable part of the performance by far.
The production is not without problems but still has the potential to be enjoyable for newcomers and seasoned opera-goers alike.