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Gay's the Word

The Magic Flute

By • Off-West End
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Merry Opera Company’s The Magic Flute uses an imaginative, sparky new translation/version by Kit Hesketh-Harvey who also directs. His central innovation is to place the opera within the sick, distraught Mozart’s life in 1791. It is a good idea which helps to make sense of the ordeals and fantasy with Mozart becoming Tamino, fellow Mason, and the original librettist, Schikaneder as Papageno and Constanza as Pamina. The dragon at the beginning has, as its scales, the unpaid bills which are plaguing both Mozart and his wife – and the opera is full of such neat touches.

The music arranged (by Nick Allen) for a five piece band led by Stephen Hose at the piano works well because the pared down texture, using violin, viola, cello and woodwind exposes strands in the music that sometimes go unnoticed. Niall Webb does an especially impressive job moving seamlessly between clarinet and flute.

And so to the cast of thirteen most of whom sing several roles rotating between performances which maximises the learning and experience potential for singers who are all - except bass Matthew Quirk who alternates as Sarastro - young and “emerging.” Each of them sings well and the show includes plenty of pleasing acting – against Sophia Simensky’s simple set consisting of a bed and table and later some blocks and pillars. There is outstanding work from Thomas Faulkner as Sarastro. He has a remarkable voice, considerable gravitas and articulates even the very lowest notes with stunning resonance and power. Also highly enjoyable is Kristin Finnegan with her rich fruity contralto and larger than life personality as the third lady.

Lawrence Olsworth-Peter as Mozart/Tamino brings a wonderful vulnerability to the role. And it will be a long time before I forget the charismatic Clare Egan weeping as Pamina (or is she Contanza?) over the sick body of her man after the ordeals. After all, as one character comments in the libretto, real immortality comes from the ongoing success of your art long after your death. So Mozart doesn’t die after all. He resurfaces as a triumphant Tamino for his happy ending.

This show is a delightful, thoughtful two and a half hours in the theatre which is both moving and entertaining. I’m hoping to see it a second time.

 - Susan Elkin


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