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Opera review: The Magic Flute, Festival Theatre Edinburgh

Magic Flute at the Festival Theatre.

Magic Flute at the Festival Theatre.

  • by JOSIE BALFOUR
 

THERE are those of us whose sartorial choice is based entirely on the vague notion that Dr Who is about to drop from the sky and take us on an adventure through time and space.

Far more likely is that Scottish Opera will pluck an innocent from the midst of the audience and drop them into their production of the Magic Flute.

With this in mind, it is perhaps time to start dressing in the manner of an esoteric goth-steampunk with a minor role as a panto henchman.

Stepping into director Sir Thomas Allen’s Magic Flute is like visiting the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. In fact, one suspects that many of the costumes from the Olympics may have been repurposed for this show - otherwise, most of the audience will be at a loss to understand why so many nurses keep appearing on stage.

Glorious set and costumes aside, there is much joy to be found in Allen’s warped little world. There are nods to Mozart’s original intentions and no attempt has been made to underplay the esoteric elements of the story.

Instead, Allen sets much of the action in a venue that could easily be mistaken for a labyrinthine Masonic hall. An 18th century dialogue about the contrast between science and superstition, dark and light, feminine and masculine, God and the Devil, the Magic Flute is, in essence, the celebrity death match of its time between Richard Dawkins and Mother Teresa.

At the centre of all this revolutionary chaos are Tamino, Pamina and Papageno. Prince Tamino, played by Nicky Spence, is a bewildered Scot led into a fantasy world where he is compelled to choose between love and enlightenment, while Pamina, a floaty, fiesty Laura Mitchell, avoids the advances of villains as she pursues her love through the trials placed before them.

Stealing the show with aplomb is the fool Papageno, Richard Burkhard, who deftly gives a masterclass in the sort of tomfoolery that the word ‘pantomime’ was invented to describe. His romantic foil Papagena, Ruth Jenkins, is equally dazzling.

One of the brightest lights, covered in a constellation of stars both physically and musically, was Queen of the Night Mari Moriya. If only every outfit came with a trio of floating white spirits prophesying the way like hers, you certainly wouldn’t get lost in a crowd.

* * * * *

• Run ends Saturday

 

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EDINBURGH
FESTIVALS
2014

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