Giant snakes, floating trees, dictatorships, and nurses armed with lightsabres. This might sound like the latest George Lucas film, but it is in fact Opera North’s newest version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute. While that may sound a little much, I can promise you it is all worth it.
I went into this not knowing what to expect, having never seen an opera before. As an opera, I thought it could be unbearably long. And it was long, running just shy of 3 hours, however every minute was worth it, and I left feeling like I wanted to see more of the vibrant and exciting world they created.
“Beautiful, opulent, and striking costumes and set”
This was in no small part down to the beautiful, opulent, and striking costumes and set designed by Colin Richmond. The set was constantly moving, changing location through the movement of walls, and the addition of abstract expressionistic set pieces. Whilst occasionally moving the set felt a little clunky, it always managed to keep the same consistent tone; sharp angles, contrasting colours and nods to other scenes, one of my favourite motifs being the origami birds on the bedhead of Pamina’s bed, linking to the stuffed birds on the little girl’s in the opening scene.
“The large chorus provided some powerful and haunting harmonies”
When I found out that it would be performed in English, rather than the original German, I was a little worried that it may feel contrived and that rhymes and meter would be shoehorned in to fit with Mozart’s music. And at times it did feel a little contrived, however this was rare, and hardly mattered given the beautiful music conducted by George Jackson and the incredible vocals of the cast. The large chorus provided some powerful and haunting harmonies, whilst the individual singers masterfully performed the intricate and technically challenging music. Notably, Samantha Hay performed the highly recognisable Queen of the Night, Aria with amazing vocal dexterity, and the children who played the three boys, whilst sometimes getting a little drowned out by the power of the orchestra, performed with such precision and confidence that you would hardly believe their age.
“one of the most rich, interesting, and multi-textured opening scenes I’ve ever seen”
One other thing that must be commended is the complicated video design of Douglas O’Connell. Each of the projections works brilliantly with the feel of their respective scenes but all culminates in an incredible fantasy climax with entire settings projected onto gauze. Gauze itself is used to remarkably fantastic effect throughout, particularly in the first scene which occurs simultaneously in a child’s bedroom and her father’s formal banquet; one of the most rich, interesting, and multi-textured opening scenes I’ve ever seen.
“This production is grand and one of the most visually powerful pieces of theatre I have ever seen”
Now I could attempt to explain the plot, which was incredibly captivating and provided so many twists and turns that I wholeheartedly bought into. However, in attempting to describe the plot, I would be simplifying some of what made the show so beautiful. This is a highly complex story about love, family, and the power of imagination. This production is grand and one of the most visually powerful pieces of theatre I have ever seen.
Opera North’s The Magic Flute is the perfect starter opera, for newbies like me, but also offers something uniquely magical and childlike, that will thaw even the most traditionalist opera-goer’s heart. An absolute triumph.
Featured Image courtesy of Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Official Facebook Page.