Review: The Magic Flute

The great moments fly past in this assured production

Aoife Miskelly and Ben McAteer

Aoife Miskelly and Ben McAteer

 

The Magic Flute

Market Place Theatre, Armagh

*****

“As a producer and director of opera, the only deadly sin for me is being boring.” NI Opera’s Oliver Mears certainly practices what he preaches, here delivering a thoroughly entertaining evening. The company’s touring production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute delivers more than just fun. Mozart and his librettist Schikaneder (a fellow mason and the first Papageno) provide a fascinating blend of music and speech, masonic moralising, darkness and light, the down-trodden and privileged.

Contrast is also a feature of Simon Holdsworth’s set and costume design, from the opening chequerboard, with its overlay of snakes and ladders, through Papagena’s shocking pink transformation to the vivid red of the hunting party. Kevin Treacy’s lighting is equally effective.

There is an assured lightness of touch from the outset. The predominantly youthful cast, a well-integrated ensemble, produce singing, acting and movement of quality and style. Jeremy Sams’ English translation works a treat and, even from a seat high up in the gods, every word is clear.

Anthony Gregory’s Tamino and Aoife Miskelly’s Pamina, a well-focused and bright-voiced pairing, produce lovely fluid lines. They remain central to the story,but Ben McAteer’s Papageno is more than a side-show. His comic timing and delivery of the folk-song-like melodies and patter are hugely rewarding. Lynsey Curtin’s Papagena is a good comic counter-balance.

And then there are the three Ladies, Sinead O’Kelly, Sarah Richmond and Laura Murphy, who are provocative, completely engaging and not to be crossed, with great characterisation and confidently expressive singing. They’re balanced by the three Boys, young choristers who assume their roles with confidence and gusto. It’s a case of never mind the blend, enjoy the great moments as they fly past.

Stephen Richardson’s Sarastro certainly doesn’t lack presence or bass profundity; John Graham-Hall’s Monostatos comes straight from television’s Ripper Street; Ruth Jenkins-Róbertsson’s Queen of the Night is pure Victorian melodrama.

Nicholas Chalmers conducts with clarity and forward direction, always sympathetic to the singers’ needs. His consistency of stylistic approach across the evening is assisted by the small chorus,weighted towards tenors and basses, and a surprisingly effective 13-piece instrumental ensemble.

At Lyric Theatre, Belfast Sept 10-11 and Millennium Theatre, Derry, Sept 13