The Magic Flute at the Royal Opera House online
As part of their Our House to Your House series, the Royal Opera House is streaming their revival of David McVicar’s production of Die Zauberflöte on their YouTube channel to help us overcome the strains of the coronavirus crisis. And it’s just as strong as it ever was: this is a magical portrayal which is gorgeous to see and hear; it’s a glamorous, big-budget production with a great cast that succeeds on all levels.
The plot was never The Magic Flute’s strong point, but it’s still harmless enough not to offend on the whole. Less tolerable is the outrageously outdated libretto with various sexist remarks – but the audience is unphased, laughing instead at such moments which might otherwise be taken seriously; it’s quite clear that they recognise that the text is very much a product of its time and should be treated accordingly.
McVicar’s production – revived by Thomas Guthrie – is stunning; beautiful designs by John Macfarlane are highlighted pristinely by Paule Constable’s lighting to create an effect which is nothing short of breathtaking. From the Queen’s blue-infused night-time kingdom with stars in the background to Sarastro’s bright, dominating kingdom, everything looks as though it’s from a fairy tale. It’s true that this is a more conservative production, but here it works in its favour.
But it’s the performers who steal the show. Siobhan Stagg’s Pamina is sweet and lyrical, although she does equally well when highlighting the finesse of her character in her darker moments. She is matched well with Mauro Peter as Tamino, who impresses with a strong rendition of Dies Bildniss and generally maintains a strong stage presence. It’s Roderick Williams’s Papageno who carries most of the show, however, through the delivery of sheer comedic brilliance in both his acting and singing; having played the part for a number of years, it now seems as though he was born for it. Equally dominating is Sabine Devieilhe’s Queen of the Night: she delivers a stellar performance in her goose-bump-inducing Der Höllen Rache, in which she flawlessly and mercilessly pulls off every single note with ease and delivers an impressively furious interpretation.
It’s no doubt that this The Magic Flute is very strong indeed; Mozart’s brilliant music is brought to new heights in a fantastic production which understands the source material well enough to create a crowd-pleaser that will be remembered for a long time to come.
Photo: Tristram Kenton