IT MIGHT sound sacrilegious, but it’s something of a mystery why the preposterous storyline of The Magic Flute still has a place on the modern stage. Lines so misogynist they’re laugh-out-loud funny are spoken and sung by both sexes, in a world where women are condemned for their mindless chatter and rendered pointless without a man beside them.
Scottish Opera, The Magic Flute, Theatre Royal, Glasgow ****
But almost 230 years after Mozart first delivered his thinly-veiled Masonic allegory, The Magic Flute is still pulling in the crowds, for largely the same reasons it did back in 1791: it’s hugely entertaining.
Just as Emanuel Schikaneder will have had them rolling in the 18th century aisles, Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s English libretto is replete with comic one-liners that speak directly to a 21st century audience, despite the production’s Victorian setting.
The structure, too, makes it accessible to a wider demographic than most operas, with its mix of song and narrative more reminiscent of musical theatre and music hall. This 2012 revival also benefits from Simon Higlett’s stunning set and costume design, a neverending feast for the eyes.
If the story, for all its rhetoric about love and wisdom, leaves much to be desired, the cast still buys into it 100 per cent, resulting in performances that are nothing short of glorious, from Julia Sitkovetsky’s exquisitely sharp Queen of the Night aria to Gemma Summerfield’s gentle and heartfelt Pamina’s lament, and several brief but deeply satisfying moments of rousing chorus.
Threatening to bring the house down, however, is Richard Burkhard, whose lovelorn yet jovial Papageno overflows with warmth, wit and charm.