Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, 11/02/2011
I must admit at the outset of this post, that I have never seen The Magic Flute live. There, I came clean. Have seen a few DVDs, have the CDs (including the most talked about Jacobs’ new recording with no cuts whatsoever), watched the YouTube clips, but never live. When I found out that McVicar’s production will be on again this season, I had to see it. Had many expectations, since this Magic Flute is on DVD for ages. Let’s get over with the admin first.
Tamino – Joseph Kaiser
First Lady – Elisabeth Meister, Second Lady – Kai Rüütel, Third Lady – Gaynor Keeble
Papageno – Christopher Maltman
Queen of the Night – Jessica Pratt
Monostatos – Alasdair Eliott
Pamina – Kate Royal
First Boy – Jason Panagiotopoulos, Second Boy – Freddie Macbruce, Third Boy – Camilo Sanchez-Vallejo
Speaker of the Temple – Matthew Best
Sarastro – Franz-Josef Selig
First Priest – Harry Nicol
Second Priest – Donald Maxwell
Papagena – Anna Devin
First man in armour – Stephen Rooke
nSecond man in armour – Lukas Jakobski
The production team:
Original Director – David McVicar
Revival Director – Lee Blakeley
Designs – John Macfarlane
Light design – Paule Constable
Movement – Leah Hausman
Conducted by David Syrus
I am sure the papers and other blogs already have covered this particular production of The Magic Flute at great length and I will not spend much time in trying to repeat what was already said. In general, I liked it. There are a few aspects of this production that looked pointless, like the bunch of actors who appeared before curtain up with the little spherical lights? (For some reason they reminded me of the OOD in Doctor Who). Also thank good for the noiseless smoke making machines. Why did Tamino have to appear from the box stage left (from audience perspective) and then walk through a door in the curtain? (The curtain on the picture at the start of this post). Mystery? Going into the unknown? Where was Tamino before, and what is this youth doing in this land where giant snakes are about to kill you? Coming of age, enlightenment, becoming a man by not speaking to women? This Tamino is no Siegfried and certainly not Harry Potter!
Some patrons in the audience did not like the announcement for the replacement of Colin Davies with David Syrus. There was some commotion in the auditorium. David lead the orchestra and the action on stage perfectly.
What I did like about this production very much is blatantly obvious Tom and Jerry like direction of this fragmentary dramaturgy. But even more obvious than that: flute, glockenspiel, chair, brace, dagger do not just appear from thin air, they are brought in perfect time from the actors from underneath, from the left right and centre.
Lets talk about the singing: Tamino took time to warm up. Dies Bieldnis ist bezaubern schön took time to settle in the groove. Singing wise it was plain sailing for him. And here comes Papageno the fabulous bird catcher. Christopher Maltman is great Papageno. Almost child like naive and innocent and yet naughty. Fully resonant voice throughout the range, excellent German diction in both the singing and the speaking parts. I can safely say that he was the best of the main characters this evening. And him and Papagena on the huge bed were quite a pair. Papagena was excellent as well.
Jessica Pratt seemed not very comfortable in the Queen of the Night’s shoes this evening. Appearing for the third time in week must have taken its toll. It was not sharp, tough and in the groove enough. The mother daughter dialog before she bursts into Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem herzen, did not have the intensity and drama I anticipated.
Pamina was not very consistent vocally. At moment there was magical pianissimi, but also some not very pleasant sounds. The scene with the boys was ruined by their not very good tuning. (Reminds me of the boy in Tanhaüser who was very very out of tune. Why can’t the Royal Opera book some really good trebles for these parts?)
Franz-Josef Selig was one very boring Sarastro. Why don’t I feel anything towards this character in this singspiel? One would think that he is this evil person, and then we all find that he is the opposite (is he?). But I didn’t care. The bottom f resonated fully, but I can’t say the same for the rest of the notes. Was expecting to hear this velvety cloak like cloud of overtones and warmth in the voice, but there was none. And he was very wooden Sarastro. The relationship between him and Pamina seemed not worked on enough, or was that the maximum Lee could get out of Franz-Joseph?
The speaker of the Temple, and the Two Priests were great. Such dignity (?!) and poise and some very fine singing from these three. Monostatos is a hilarous part! Why on earth is this character there at all? However, the two armed men, were just awful. Their voices did not blend, their tuning was bad. (They also appeared from underneath at the moment when they were required and disappeared in the same way when they finished).
Why at the end the sun needed to be rolled onto the stage, as if it is this object that humans can manipulate? (and it so overexposed my pictures, so there you go I am annoyed).
The choir singing from the edge of the stage at the end was strikingly good.
The Queen of the night and her three ladies dead? Where are boys? Do they disappear too, because Tamino is now a man after he passed all the tests? And the magical instruments? I loved the pan pipe Papageno played, especially when he started playing Non piu andrai farfalone amoroso! Cliche, but still got me laughing!
Here is a video from the curtain call