Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

In Parenthesis, Welsh National Opera in London

‘A century after the Somme, who still stands with Britain?’ So read a headline in yesterday’s Evening Standard on the eve of the centenary of the first day of that battle which, 141 days later, would grind to a halt with 1,200,000 British, French, German and Allied soldiers dead or injured.

Die Walküre, Opera North

A day is now a very long time indeed in politics; would that it were otherwise. It certainly is in the Ring, as we move forward a generation to Die Walküre.

Early Gluck arias at the Wigmore Hall

If composers had to be categorised as either conservatives or radicals, Christoph Willibald Gluck would undoubtedly be in the revolutionary camp, lauded for banishing display, artifice and incoherence from opera and restoring simplicity and dramatic naturalness in his ‘reform’ operas.

Das Rheingold, Opera North

Das Rheingold is, of course, the reddest in tooth and claw of all Wagner’s dramas - which is saying something.

Peter Grimes in Princeton

The Princeton Festival presents one opera annually, amidst other events. Its offerings usually alternate annually between 20th century and earlier operas. This year the Festival presented Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, now a classic work, in a very effective and moving production.

Scintillating Strauss in Saint Louis

If you like your Ariadne on Naxos productions as playful as a box of puppies, then Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is the address for you.

Saint Louis Takes On ‘The Scottish Opera’

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis took forty years before attempting Verdi’s Macbeth but judging by the excellence of the current production, it was well worth the wait.

Anatomy Theater: A Most Unusual New Opera

On June 16, 2016, Los Angeles Opera with Beth Morrison Projects presented the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang's Anatomy Theater at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT).

Shalimar in St. Louis: Pagliaccio Non Son

In its compact forty-year history, the ambitious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has just triumphantly presented its twenty-fifth world premiere with Shalimar the Clown.

Jenůfa, ENO

The sharp angles and oddly tilting perspectives of Charles Edwards’ set for David Alden’s production of Jenůfa at ENO suggest a community resting precariously on the security and certainty of its customs, soon to slide from this precipice into social and moral anarchy.

The “Other” Marriage of Figaro in a West Village Townhouse

Last week an audience of 50 assembled in the kitchen of a luxurious West Village townhouse for a performance of Marriage of Figaro.

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

Tristan, English National Opera

My first Tristan, indeed my first Wagner, in the theatre was ENO’s previous staging of the work, twenty years ago, in 1996. The experience, as it should, as it must, although this is alas far from a given, quite overwhelmed me.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Robert Murray as Tamino [Photo by Richard H Smith courtesy of English National Opera]
08 Feb 2009

Magic Flute at ENO

‘Back by popular demand’ claimed ENO’s publicity material for the 21-year-old production which had its supposed swan-song last season – though it remains questionable whether the company ever really intended to get rid of it.

W.A. Mozart: The Magic Flute

Tamino: Robert Murray, Michael Bracegirdle (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12); Pamina: Sarah-Jane Davies, Mairéad Buicke (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12); Papageno: Roderick Williams, Toby Stafford-Allen (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12); Papagena: Amanda Forbes; Sarastro: Robert Lloyd, Graeme Danby (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12); The Queen of the Night: Emily Hindrichs, Laure Meloy (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12); Speaker: Graeme Danby, James Gower (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12); Monostatos: Stuart Kale; First Lady: Kate Valentine; Second Lady: Susanna Tudor-Thomas; Third Lady: Deborah Davison; First Priest / First Armed Man: Christopher Turner; Second Priest / Second Armed Man: James Gower. The English National Opera. Conductor: Erik Nielsen, Stephen Higgins (Feb 7 mat, Feb 12). Original Director: Nicholas Hytner. Revival Director: Ian Rutherford. Designer: Bob Crowley.

Above: Robert Murray as Tamino

All photos by Richard H Smith courtesy of English National Opera

 

Although Nicholas Hytner’s staging takes more of a ‘family entertainment’ approach than some more psychologically searching productions, with overt jokes and a pantomime-villain Monostatos, it is one of the company’s greatest assets; a well-established rite of passage for many of ENO’s promising young singers, an ideal first night at the opera for a child or adult beginner, and the sort of show which it seemingly isn’t possible to dislike.

ENO_TheMagicFlute-105.pngRobert Lloyd as Sarastro and Sarah-Jane Davies as Pamina

On this occasion, Sarah-Jane Davies and Robert Murray were well-cast and well-partnered as Tamino and Pamina. Davies sang in the last revival here, and she has become a really lovely Mozartian singer, her beautifully controlled soprano subtly imbued with pathos and emotion. Murray’s elegant tenor was ideal for the high-born, high-minded youth, and he was eloquent in his delivery of the English words. It was a shame that both seemed nervous and tentative in their characterisation.

As the Queen of the Night, Emily Hindrichs’s small, brittle and cleanly-placed soprano was initially impressive, but in the Act 2 spoken dialogue her rage had little sense of a noblewoman’s wounded pride, and she came across merely as petulant and shrill. Her subsequent aria had some lapses in accuracy. Robert Lloyd – a rare sight on this stage, having spent so much of his distinguished career at the Royal Opera – brought gravitas and a fatherly presence to Sarastro, with bottom notes of rich velvet.

Jeremy Sams’s gently humorous colloquial dialogue was delivered in a wide range of regional accents, some more real than others. In the case of the Three Ladies (guest principal Kate Valentine and chorus-members Susanna Tudor-Thomas and Deborah Davison) whose glamorous feather-trimmed midnight-blue costumes demand a certain amount of upper-class bearing, the use of various accents was a misjudgement; I wondered whether perhaps one of the three had been unable to disguise a genuine accent, and the other two had been obliged to affect accents of their own to compensate.

Papageno was played once again as a genial Yorkshireman by the very likeable Roderick Williams, though through no fault of his own he had trouble living up to his job description on this occasion. Two of the four real white doves, whose behaviour when they appear on stage during the Bird-catcher’s Song is usually impeccable, got uncharacteristically overexcited and decided it might be fun to evade capture. It took an additional pair of hands and a good two or three minutes to round them up, amid much audience mirth. The joys of live theatre!

ENO_TheMagicFlute-31.pngEmily Hindrichs as The Queen of Night and Robert Murray as Tamino

If the birds were intent on demonstrating the wisdom of the oft-repeated advice never to work with children or animals, trebles Charlie Manton, Louis Watkins and Harry Manton were here for the defence. They were quite the finest trio of boys I can recall hearing, perfectly in tune and impeccably vocally matched.

Conductor Erik Nielsen (Kapellmeister of the Frankfurt Opera), in his house debut, was rather stately and mannered in a heavily Baroque-inflected overture, but from then on his reading had a poised and even pacing that never dragged.

ENO_TheMagicFlute-122.pngSarah-Jane Davies as Pamina with the Three Spirits (Charlie Manton, Louis Watkins & Harry Manton)

The company has been strangely quiet on the subject of whether the staging has now been officially retired, or whether it has been granted a more permanent reprieve. But now that opera companies have a bigger challenge than ever in competing for audience spending power, it would surely be a waste to scrap such a sure-fire hit as this. It keeps those doves in work, anyway...

Ruth Elleson © 2009

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):