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Mozart’s The Magic Flute: OperaUpClose
New Wolsey Theatre, Thursday 1st February 2018
When you turn up for a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, you don’t really expect to find a saxophone tuning up, a laptop charging on a stand and a guitarist plugging in his electric instrument. But then OperaUpClose doesn’t do normal.
The Olivier-Award-winning opera company who give us a fresh and modern look at the classic operas, have a cast of 6 and a band of 4 for this production. There is a minimalist revolving set of a nightclub (yes, called Queen of the Night, what else?) and a brilliantly sassy and LOL-text which has you hanging onto every word, even if it doesn’t bear much relation to the original libretto nor even plot.
They give us the best arias/duets/trios/ensembles from Mozart’s masterpiece and a plot which engages and entertains. The singers draw you into their world with fine acting and involve the audience by making entrances through the theatre, having a chat with the punter in row G, and taking a group selfie of us all. Heavens, audience participation in an elitist art form??? At last. Bravo.
The singing is of the highest quality considering they are doubling up on parts, and the amount of costume and character changes they have to negotiate in this upbeat, high energy production. Exquisite singing from a slight, sexy and feisty Pamina; excellent diction and control from a superbly-acted Papageno and a crystal clear Queen of the Night, playing the diva beautifully.
But it is the band which is the shining star of this production. Piano, bass (upright and electric), electric guitar and sax doubling flute and clarinet – how can that combination possibly recreate the depth of Mozart’s music? By not trying, that’s how. The orchestration adapts and modernises the original in an utterly tasteful, dramatic and exciting way, giving the ‘new’ instruments a relevant voice in an 18th century score.
This is entertainment at its absolute best. And just want Mozart intended with this particular opera, possibly? Loved it, loved it, loved it. Go see.