English National Opera – Simon McBurney’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute – Allan Clayton, Reisha Adams, Peter Coleman-Wright & Ambur Braid – conducted by Mark Wigglesworth

Die Zauberflöte, K620 – Singspiel in two Acts to a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder [sung in an English translation by Stephen Jeffrey, with English surtitles]

Tamino – Allan Clayton
Three Ladies – Eleanor Davies, Catherine Young & Rachael Lloyd
Papageno – David Coleman-Wright
The Queen of the Night – Ambur Braid
Monostatos – John Graham-Hall
Pamina – Reisha Adams
Three Spirits – Anton May, Yohan Rodas & Oscar Simms
Speaker – Darren Jeffery
Sarastro – James Cresswell
Papagena – Soraya Mafi
First Priest / First Armed Man – Rupert Charlesworth
Second Priest / Second Armed Man – Frederick Long

Chorus & Orchestra of English National Opera
Mark Wigglesworth

Simon McBurney – Director
Josie Daxter – Revival Director & Choreographer
Nicky Gillibrand – Costume Designer
Jean Kalman – Lighting Designer
Finn Ross – Video Designer
Gareth Fry – Sound Designer

Reviewed by: Amanda-Jane Doran

Reviewed: 11 February, 2016
Venue: The Coliseum, London

The Magic Flute, English National OperaPhotograph: © 2016, Robbie JackThis revival of Simon McBurney’s production of The Magic Flute comes at a time when ENO is undergoing its own search for the meaning of life. Mozart’s great stage-work embodies a quest for enlightenment in the face of insurmountable obstacles and trials.

Die Zauberflöte (1791) was created for a troupe of performers and singers in the Viennese tradition of Singspiel, in which elements of comedy, magic and spectacle combine. ENO’s staging brings this right up to date with bleak industrial overtones. The main feature of the set is a suspended black platform, which serves as a space of vertiginous variety. Not for nothing did David Coleman-Wright, as Papageno, carry a stepladder throughout for easy scaling and elegant access. The design is sparse and colourless, but the use of video projections and sound-effects is witty and in the right spirit.

The Magic Flute, English National OperaPhotograph: © 2016, Robbie JackAllan Clayton’s Tamino was hapless and track-suited, instantly sympathetic, especially when debagged by the camouflaged Three Ladies vying for his affection. They snapped him on their mobile phones as they left to report to the Queen of the Night. Lucy Crowe was sadly indisposed for this second performance. Her replacement Reisha Adams sang Pamina with warmth and vibrancy, just occasionally needing assistance with the perilous plank. Vocally Clayton and Adams stood out as the most accomplished singers. Ambur Braid as a wheelchair-bound, menacing Queen of the Night was effective but smaller-voiced. James Cresswell’s silver haired, intelligent Sarastro looked just like Lucius Malfoy from Harry Potter and the ever-excellent John Graham-Hall was a wonderfully ‘hissable’ pantomime villain Monostatos.

The performers created Papageno’s flock of errant birds from sheets of paper and the ‘magic flute’ and ‘magic bells’ were played on the stage, a well-judged comic touch, the players mingling with the actors (sadly they are not credited). Stephen Jeffrey’s refreshing translation seemed to show the gift of second sight, or certainly insight into ENO’s current parlous state. Sarastro opened the second Act thus: “The situation is of the utmost gravity…”. Current events were morphing into the performance. Outside the Coliseum, chorus members handed out cards and stickers in protest at job and wage cuts. They fulfilled the prophecy from the first Act, “this music is the shining light”. Indeed the stars of the evening were the Orchestra and Chorus under the inspirational Mark Wigglesworth. Long may it continue.

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