Classical review: Touring Opera- The Magic Flute

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WHO’D have thought that Perth Concert Hall would be the perfect venue for a fully-staged Mozart opera?

English Touring Opera: The Magic Flute - Perth Concert Hall

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But that’s exactly what the 1,100-strong Perth Festival audience discovered in a stylish and entertaining production by English Touring Opera of Mozart’s effervescent The Magic Flute, sung in English.

Unbeknown to most of us, there’s even a configuration of the Perth stage that creates a submerged orchestra pit. So unlike previous ETO visits to the temporarily-closed Perth Theatre, this pit band, under conductor Michael Rosewell, had ample space, and the benefits of a perfect acoustic, to let Mozart’s orchestration sound exactly as it should: radiant, lustrous and illuminating.

These were the qualities that governed director James Hurley’s refreshing revival of Liam Steel’s original ETO production. Within Chloe Lamford’s all-purpose set – multiple levels in rich dark blue, set alight by the comical trapdoor effects – movement was sleek and mercurial, giving ample space for the characters to form.

Two, in particular, shone like beacons. Wyn Penharreg’s Papageno was captivating in every sense, a truly natural comedic presence capitalising on his native Welshness, coupled with a vocal performance that was spontaneously communicative. Anna Patalong’s Pamina was every bit as convincing, sung with golden purity. Ashley Catling took time to find focus as Tamino, but this was a cast whose slick teamwork captured the essential spirit of a wonderful opera.

Yet this glowing occasion left me with one nagging thought. Was there anyone there watching from Scottish Opera? There was a time when our national opera company opened brand new productions in Perth, particularly Mozart operas, often at the Perth Festival itself.

It’s a disgrace that this hasn’t happened since the 1980s, and that an English Touring company has since bagged the annual slot. Scottish Opera should be in conversation with Perth about redressing that absence. And this concert hall, with its amazing adaptability, is the ideal place to stage that comeback.

Seen on 22.05.14