The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte; conducted by Julia Jones

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

Sarastro – Mika Kares
Tamino – Mauro Peter
Speaker – Darren Jeffery
First Priest – Harry Nicoll
Second Priest – Donald Maxwell
Queen of the Night – Sabine Devieilhe
Pamina – Siobhan Stagg
First Lady – Rebecca Evans
Second Lady – Angela Simkin
Third Lady – Susan Platts
First Boy – James Fernandez
Second Boy – Oliver Simpson
Third Boy – Jayden Tejuoso
Papageno – Roderick Williams
Papagena – Christina Gansch
Monostatos – Peter Bronder
First Armed Man – Andrew Macnair
Second Armed Man – Simon Shibambu

Royal Opera Chorus

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Julia Jones

Sir David McVicar – Director
Thomas Guthrie – Revival Director
John Macfarlane – Designer
Paule Constable – Lighting
Leah Hausman – Movement
Angelo Smimmo – Revival Movement

Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell

Reviewed: 12 September, 2017
Venue: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Mozart’s Die ZauberflötePhotograph: Tristram KentonHere in its sixth revival since 2003 is David McVicar’s rather dark-hued conception of Die Zauberflöte and which still provides an evening of both intelligence and geniality. Cleverly, the pantomime elements of the first Act are toned-down in favour of mystery and uncertainty, whilst the protracted and potentially wearisome trials of Tamino, Pamina and Papageno have a persuasive lightness of touch and flow. John Macfarlane’s monumental designs, characterised by imposing walls and doors to unexplored spaces still look fresh. From an orchestral perspective Julia Jones and the ROH Orchestra provide crisp airy textures and a fleetness that only seldom wants an element of gravitas. Some of the detail, particularly from the middle and lower strings, was freshly-minted, although some of Jones’s tempos put a few of the singers through their paces, and there was occasional ragged ensemble.

Vocally the evening got off to a shaky start with the three Ladies suffering from the dense stage fog that obscured their first appearances. Tamino’s portrait aria, ‘Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön’, sung by Mauro Peter, really got things going. His is a beautiful light-sounding tenor with a latent heroic quality about it and with a likeable stage persona. Tamino can often seem a dull Prince, but here is depth and charm. Roderick Williams was a charmer of a Papageno, too, and didn’t overplay the comic business; one really felt this Papageno was pursuing an uncertain and individual path to self-enlightenment. Vocally he was top-notch and the dialogue was also well-projected and in impeccable German.

The Royal Opera – David McVicar’s production of Mozart’s Die ZauberflötePhotograph: Tristram KentonFrom the temple community there was the vocally sonorous and imposing Sarastro of Mika Kares, although he lacked individuality of inflection. Darren Jeffery was a resonant Speaker. Harry Nicoll and Donald Maxwell played the two Priests to contrasting perfection, and the two Armed Men were suitably stentorian.

Pamina was sung, with attractive silvery tone and with great poise, by Siobhan Stagg. She blended well with Williams and Peter, and her rendition of the tricky ‘Ach, ich fühls’ had just the right sense of desolation allied to an improvisatory quality that was striking. As her mother, the Queen of the Night, Sabine Devieilhe brought dazzling virtuosity with flashes of tonal glint, gorgeous trills and manipulative duplicity to her dramatic interpretation. Her vocal colouring in ‘O zitt’re nicht’, as she informs Tamino of the capture of her daughter by Sarastro, was subtle and much enhanced by the orchestra. The three Boys were assured and the Chorus sounded well. A fine revival; on occasions a surprising one.

Touchingly, the performance was dedicated to the memory of Lee Blakeley (1971-2017). Blakeley had been the director for previous revivals as well as assisting McVicar when the production was new.

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