Collaboration in theatre only makes for stronger artistic productions. Through sharing ideas with others, engaging other artists and companies with unique skills sets, and recognising artistic limitations, new creative possibilities open. Bringing in director Simon McBurney and colleagues from the ground-breaking company Complicité to help create a new and innovative production of The Magic Flute is a masterstroke by ENO. This is the production’s first revival and is a hit with audiences who are no doubt wowed by the live aural and visual effects and by McBurney’s engaging theatrical style. He brings contemporary and advanced theatre practice to the operatic stage. These techniques aren’t new, they have been used in work by other puppetry and physical theatre companies for many years. It is however one of the first productions to really play with these ideas, and The Magic Flute is the perfect opera-tunity to showcase the fantastical world of puppetry and physical theatre. Everything in this show feels integrated, from the raised orchestra, with increased theatrical involvement, to the live artists placed on the side of the stage proscenium.
To begin the evening the overture strikes up, and immediately we are captivated by Mozart’s incredible musical fantasy. A cast full of young exciting British singers impress. Allan Clayton, a British tenor with the blade of a bel canto voice, enters as Tamino, in a slightly different guise, looking more like a lovable, boyish hipster than a Prince. His singing and acting is very accomplished and an exciting prospect. Peter Coleman-Wright as Papageno looks a little out of place in this vibrant young cast. His comic delivery needs a little fine tuning, but his voice appealingly buffo in tone. Lucy Crowe plays Pamina in virgin white. Her voice is as pure and delicate as her costume, and her Act Two ‘Ach Ich Fuhl’s’ was truly stunning. Both James Creswell as Sarastro and Ambur Braid as The Queen of the Night impress and give gravitas to this mysterious fairy tale.
I am so glad we are moving towards a point where opera is considered foremost a sub genre of theatre instead of being isolated in the artistic world. Clever live audio and video elements create a new and engaging take on this opera classic, and something to rival The Royal Opera House’s own seasoned production. At the helm Mark Wigglesworth is totally in control, leading with confidence, energy and a quick pace. This is both an enchanting production and an example of progressive theatre making. A new ENO classic.
The Magic Flute is playing at ENO until 14 March. For more information and tickets, see www.eno.org/themagicflute