The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflote), ENO at the Coliseum

The ENO's current revival of The Magic Flute proves to be a good, rather than a vintage performance of Nic Hytner's ever-popular staging, revived now by Carlos Wagner.

Having seen this production more than ten times now, it still comes up as fresh as when I first saw it - even if one of the newcomers to the cast leaves a gaping hole at the centre of Mozart's masterpiece.

The cast contains some familiar faces and some newcomers to the main roles. Best of these is the ravishing young soprano Susan Gritton who takes on the mantle of Pamina. She sings exquisitely throughout the evening producing an endless stream of beautiful tone and glorious arcs of sound. Her outstanding performance is well worth a visit alone.

Leigh Melrose sings Papageno for the first time on any stage. His voice is not huge for the cavernous Coliseum, but he projects well and cuts an endearing figure. Cyndia Sieden, one of the best Queen of the Nights around, sings both her arias with spitfire coloratura and makes them sound easy, which of course they're not.

Andrew Greenan is back as a benign Msarastro, presiding over his commune with warmth and gravitas. As the follically challenged Monostatos, John Graham Hall repeats his familiarly insidious, oily take on the role. The three boys and three ladies sing with consummate ease throughout.

Unfortunately, Barry Banks as Tamino is no match for the rest of this cast. Being smaller in stature than the three boys hampers him, and he looks out of place for most of the evening. His stage presence would not seem so incongruous if he had the required vocal equipment to make this role the centrepiece of the production, but at best his singing is adequate, no more.

Grant Llewellyn keeps things moving in the pit, but at the end of the day this really is Miss Gritton's show. Be warned - there are myriad cast changes during the run and, in order to catch Gritton, you need to do so by the 4 March. (Marq Le Brocq sings Tamino from 8 March.)

Keith McDonnell


Note: The following review dates from this production's 1997 outing at the Coliseum.

The ENO's current revival of The Magic Flute proves to be a good, rather than a vintage performance of Nic Hytner's ever-popular staging, revived now by Carlos Wagner.

Having seen this production more than ten times now, it still comes up as fresh as when I first saw it - even if one of the newcomers to the cast leaves a gaping hole at the centre of Mozart's masterpiece.

The cast contains some familiar faces and some newcomers to the main roles. Best of these is the ravishing young soprano Susan Gritton who takes on the mantle of Pamina. She sings exquisitely throughout the evening producing an endless stream of beautiful tone and glorious arcs of sound. Her outstanding performance is well worth a visit alone.

Leigh Melrose sings Papageno for the first time on any stage. His voice is not huge for the cavernous Coliseum, but he projects well and cuts an endearing figure. Cyndia Sieden, one of the best Queen of the Nights around, sings both her arias with spitfire coloratura and makes them sound easy, which of course they're not.

Andrew Greenan is back as a benign Msarastro, presiding over his commune with warmth and gravitas. As the follically challenged Monostatos, John Graham Hall repeats his familiarly insidious, oily take on the role. The three boys and three ladies sing with consummate ease throughout.

Unfortunately, Barry Banks as Tamino is no match for the rest of this cast. Being smaller in stature than the three boys hampers him, and he looks out of place for most of the evening. His stage presence would not seem so incongruous if he had the required vocal equipment to make this role the centrepiece of the production, but at best his singing is adequate, no more.

Grant Llewellyn keeps things moving in the pit, but at the end of the day this really is Miss Gritton's show. Be warned - there are myriad cast changes during the run and, in order to catch Gritton, you need to do so by the 4 March. (Marq Le Brocq sings Tamino from 8 March.)

Keith McDonnell Magic Flute, English National Opera at the London Coliseum

It s always a joy to see a revival of what is one of ENO s most enduring productions turn up as fresh at its seventh revival as when it was new. David Ritch has revived Nicolas Hytner s now classic opera, The Magic Flute, with wit, humanity and panache.

This time out, most of the cast are new to their roles yet still manage to perform with a practiced ease. Susannah Glanville makes her company debut in the role of Pamina. Her voice is excellent throughout, full and free at the top, and used exquisitely. She crowns her performance with an impassioned rendition of the ‘G minor aria . John Hudson makes his debut in the role of Tamino. Mozart is not a composer I would readily associate with ENO s house Italian tenor. Indeed his performance in ENO s disastrous Don Giovanni a few seasons ago was fatally flawed. Here however he seems perfectly at ease, starting the performance with a beautifully sung ‘portrait aria and maintaining excellent control throughout the evening.

Riccardo Simonetti is a boisterous Papageno who provides much of the wit and sparkle of the evening. The Papageno- Papagena duet towards the end is one of the most hilarious and magical pieces of stagecraft around. Andrew Greenan is a grave and benign Sarastro, John Graham-Hall an hilarious Monastatos. Boys and ladies are cast from strength - indeed this is a cast without a weak link.

Christopher Moulds leads a sprightly performance from the pit, and the orchestra responds with lithe and energetic playing. I ve left one singer to last, Cara O Sullivan as the Queen of the Night. I don t think I ve heard the role sung better than in this production. O Sullivan s accuracy and spitfire delivery of this coloratura role takes the breath away - fantastic. My companion for the evening had never seen an opera before and was enthralled, enjoying every minute of it (the diction was impeccable throughout).

If you ve never been to the opera before, yet want to give it a go, this is the opera to see. It runs until 12 February at the London Coliseum.

Keith McDonnell, November 1997