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Opera Up Close

Mercury Theatre Colchester
25th October 2017

OperaUpClose – The Magic Flute

I’ve never been to an opera before and as I grew up with a plenty of music in the house, including classical I thought it would be a good introduction, especially as this was an opera with a modern twist – after all you can’t beat a bit of Mozart.

I Googled the storyline to get an idea as I thought it would help me, considering my first opera. Not quite sure whether this helped me or hindered me as overall I didn’t have a Scooby Doo what was happening for most of it but that wasn’t just because of the modern twist.

The group consisted of six performers, all with great voices and there were four musicians in the band, playing 9 or 10 instruments between them and playing all the way through the performance with ease and brilliance – I can’t really fault the talent of these guys.

With only 6 performers there were some instances of doubling up on characters, which isn’t an issue but the clothing ‘change’ was so subtle I hardly noticed and therefore was confused a few times.

A simple stage set with a rotating platform with a door in the centre and as it turned around it indicated whether the scene was inside or outside, easy to move and all that was needed. The band were on stage right.

For the modern twist it was set in a back street night club, the use of mobile phones and street/club clothes. Nothing wrong with that. I didn’t even mind the blow up flamingo or the pink penis. The modern twist also included the style of the music and the change of the English words for the songs. A complete change of the words, I feel.

You needed to have an open mind for this modern twist. When you’re expecting the swathe of violins to lift you with the emotion, you get an electric bass guitar instead. Unfortunately, the classic opening 3 chords lacked total passion.

It was great to see the musicians on stage close to the action, however it was often too loud and drowned the voices so a lot of the time I couldn’t understand what they were singing. With the addition of the operatic singing, and my untrained ear more words and therefore more storyline went missing.

There were some clever scenes for example, the online dating scene was funny. It was clever to have a simple stage prop to show inside or outside – you don’t need complexity as we all have imagination, but with the lack of being able to understand the words, my imagination was struggling. It was supposed to be a love story, the emotion and passion weren’t there for me either.

Having opera style singing when everything else was so ‘modern’ didn’t work for me, but maybe that was because I couldn’t hear all the words and couldn’t follow the storyline. Maybe if they sung normally it could have worked?

However, great musicians, great performers, great theatre and it really has made me want watch a classic opera and listen to more Mozart.