Over at the Coliseum, The Mikado is on its fifteenth revival outing, here at Covent Garden David McVicar’s The Magic Flute comes round for the seventh time. Both are delightful in their own way, but the Flute has more darkness and depth.
It’s all about Enlightenment — the costumes and wigs come from the 18th century period and the characters are all seeking their own. A prince and a bird-catcher set out to rescue a princess, while a dramatic queen tussles with a mysterious priest for control of the world. Best to allow the wonderful music to wash over you, and enjoy the fantasy world of starry messengers and dark lords played out on John Macfarlane’s monolithic sets and Paule Constable’s romantic chiaroscuro lighting.
Although this run sees the 350th performance of McVicar’s production, it’s an almost entirely new cast, and there are some outstanding voices. The ‘three ladies’ are engaging and beautifully blended but serve only as an opener for you to be blown away by their ice maiden boss, the stunning Finnish soprano Tuuli Takala who won enthusiastic ovations for her Queen of the Night arias.
Young British tenor Benjamin Hulett brings power and richness to the princely Tamino, his voice absolutely defining the character as heroic. As the birdcatcher Papageno, Vito Priante has fun with the puppetry goose-on-wheels but takes time to warm vocally, although his delight at finding love with Yaritza Veliz’s Papagena is infectious.
It’s a generous fusion of the gravitas of Mozart’s story, not shrinking from the Masonic challenges the characters face in the second half. However, it’s leavened with some strong comic turns, notably from the ‘three magical boys’ who make their first appearance in a splendidly Heath Robinson-esque flying machine.
A classy night out.
The Magic Flute, Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 9DD. £13-£195. In repertoire until 27 November
Last Updated 05 November 2019