Opera Anywhere swathed the evening and audience in the beautiful and complex tones and tales of Mozart's Magic Flute.
A shimmering glissando of ethereal notes opened an enchanted evening's performance of The Magic Flute at the open-air amphitheatre at Waterperry Gardens on Friday night, and this frisson of fairy-like notes set the tone for the whole performance. There are many elements of The Magic Flute which reflect common themes in fairy stories – the conflict between night and day, the pursuit of love, the kidnapping of a young maid and her rescue by a charming prince and these fey elements, together with more modern masonic and illuminati myths wove in and out of the evening's performance.
While familiar in principle with the story and music of The Magic Flute, I was relieved the performance had been eloquently translated into English. Combined with clear diction and delivery from the cast this helped enormously to carry the enthralled audience along with the story. In fact, this was an excellent and well thought out translation and adaptation of the work. The small company of less than a dozen performers and even smaller “orchestra" of two (Louisa Lam on piano and Nick Planas on flute) effectively portrayed the full panoply of music and drama wrapped up in this Mozart opera. My only slight misgiving was the 1950s setting evident in Tamino's and Pamina's costumes, but the extrapolation to the Hollywood glamour of the Queen of the Night not being so explicit.
Of course, we all waited with bated breath towards the end of the first act for Helen Winter's Queen of the Night aria, “Oh tremble not my dear son", and were not disappointed. Her accomplished vocal control and mastery of the astonishing range demanded by the role led to lengthy discussion - during the extended interval picnic in Waterperry's beautiful gardens - of the challenges of her famous aria from the second act, “Hell's Vengeance Boils in my Heart". Her performance did not disappoint. Overall, the company achieved an impressive musical range with finely nuanced tones from Christopher Webb as Sarastro and great flexibility and strong performances from Olivia Lewis, Vanessa Woodward and Serenna Wagner as the Queen of the Night's Ladies, the boys (cunningly played by puppets) and Papagena. The stand-out performance, both vocally and dramatically, was James Corrigan as Papageno who brought a wide-range of emotion and humour to his performance.
As the sun set and a crescent moon rose over Waterperry, Opera Anywhere swathed the evening and audience in the beautiful and complex tones and tales of Mozart's Magic Flute. In the liminal space between light and dark they wove an enchanted web of captivating music and drama. Everyone left enchanted, with the magic of the musical performance shimmering in their ears.