Flat Pack Music’s latest production is Mozart’s surreal fairy tale The Magic Flute, directed by Wendy Silvester with musical direction by Chris Gill.
The classic princess in need of rescuing by a handsome prince story is combined with a clownish birdman, mysterious magic and enchanted musical instruments to create a unique romantic tale which works perfectly as an opera.
The story begins with Tamino (Joseph Buckmaster), a young prince running away from a terrifying dragon. Overcoming with fear he loses consciousness and is rescued by three ladies of the forest (Hannah Macaulay, Serenna Wagner and Imogen Garner). Infatuated by him, all three ladies wish to stay alone with him while the others return to their mistress the Queen of the Night (Naomi Quant). Eventually they all agree to leave together and when Tamino wakes up he meets Papageno (David Cane), the bird catcher. Papageno proudly tells Tamino that it was he who slayed the dragon. The ladies then return and curse Papageno for lying.
They show a picture of the Queen of the Night’s daughter Pamina (Heather Heighway) to Tamino and in true operatic fashion he immediately falls in love with her. But Pamina is being held prisoner by Sarastro (Matthew Baldwin). The Queen of the Night appears and tells Tamino that if he rescues her he can have her for his bride. Agreeing to the quest the three ladies present Tamino with a magic flute and Papageno (who doesn’t really want to go) with magic bells to protect them on their journey.
Tamino and Papageno set off to try and rescue the princess, with Papageno also hoping he’ll find love on the way. They have many great trials ahead of them, and in a world where Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream looks rather mundane, nothing will be quite as easy as it seems.
The production used puppets and glowing orbs at props which enhanced the magic of the world being presented. There was also a very lovely scene featuring bubble mixture. The childlike innocence of the world the opera takes place in means that this is a very tranquil show where even the bleaker scenes have a core of hope in them.
The traditional fairy tale costumes add to this atmosphere. Sparkling crowns and a simple colour palette which subtly pairs Pamina and Tamino from the start creates a sense of a happy ever after destiny.
Heighway’s performance as the desperate princess was excellent. Her emotion was strong throughout and combined with her beautiful melodious voice, gave the character a rounded element which is often lost in this show.
Buckmaster’s Tamino was the embodiment of a fairy tale prince, combining strength, poise and self assuredness. His singing was strong and conveyed the emotion of his character very well.
Cane’s portrayal of Papageno is very funny, often using a childish whining voice which contrasts well with the operatic nature of the other performances. Slightly reminiscent of Harry Enfield’s Kevin, his declarations about the unfairness of his life, while wanting to have everything he wants without making any effort, is enhanced through his garish make up and costume, as well as his exaggerated bird like movements.
Macaulay, Wagner and Garner’s performances as the three ladies are well synched and and move between comical and mysterious with a sense of ease.
The performance did feel a little slow in places and it is possible that the English translation of the production has meant that some of the urgency felt in the original German language is lost. However as the story is more accessible to wider audiences in English, this seems like a small sacrifice to make.
There were a couple of occasions when some singers could not be fully heard, which may have been due to the placement of the orchestra immediately in front of the stage affecting the acoustics of the voices. If this was to be re-performed, it may be worth considering placing the orchestra in a different area. The orchestra was however a lovely touch which enhanced the performance overall.
The Magic Flute was an enchanting tale of love and enchantment which was beautifully performed. This colourful sparkling fairy story which will restore your faith in magic and music.
Flat Pack Music aim to present opera and classical music to the wider public by performing in English and charging affordable ticket prices. You can find out more about them and their forthcoming performances on their website or by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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