24 February 2013

Magic Flute at the Riverside

I do not know the Magic Flute that well and my memory of it was as a confusing story with controversial references to things masonic. This version complicated things further by making it the story about Mozart writing the Magic Flute.

This is a Mozart scared of failure and more scared of being poisoned; opera buffs will get the reference. He has three housemaids looking after him with more attention that his wife is happy with.

The maids provide a comedic and slightly erotic theme throughout the story, even when they change roles and become men.

Most of the cast have multiple roles so, for example, Mozart becomes Tamino in the opera and his wife, Constanza becomes Pamina, Tamino’s love. Confused? So was I.

A review I read (after seeing the opera) said that this version made a daft story dafter. I would not argue with that but I would not see that as a problem either. Daft can work.

What really makes it work is the singing and there was no weak member in the ensemble. I liked the three ladies a lot, which is just as well as they were on the stage a great deal. Even better than them was Daisy Brown as Constanza/Pamina who was the star of the show. Such a beautiful voice.

This was especially obvious in the scene where she sings about killing her self believing (falsely) that Tamino no longer loves her. Her despair was brutal and we felt her pain.

It helped being in the second row, with nobody in the front row, and Pamina sang at times just a couple of feet from me.

The music was ably provided by a small band of five, led by their pianist. The sound they produced was just right in terms of both the blend of sound and the volume. They worked well with the singers rather than competing with them for our attention.

Stripped to its basics this was pretty Mozart music played and sung beautifully. On top of that we had huge elements of comedy with the cast acting as much as singing. It was all very delightful.

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