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LIVE REVIEW – WA Opera Presents The Magic Flute, Perth 15 July 2014

| 16 July 2014 | Reply

LIVE REVIEW – WA Opera Presents The Magic Flute, Perth 15 July 2014
His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth, Western Australia
Tuesday 15 July 2014
Conducted by Brad Cohen
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Magic Flute - WA Opera

With its fantasy plotlines, epic struggles of good against evil, lavish live orchestrations and star vocal turns, it’s easy to make the assertion that opera was the prog rock of the 17th and 18th century and after some years of its popularity ebbing and flowing, the art form is surging back in popularity.

West Australian Opera has staged a wonderful rendition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s evocative score (written from the libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder), which debuted in Vienna almost 225 years ago.

With the text translated into English (and flashed on screens on either side of the stage), the story is now more accessible than ever, and a full house audience comprising black tie-sporting elders, hipster-threaded twenty-somethings and a smattering of teens and kids all roared with laughter at the comedy of the piece, loudly applauded every song in the manner of a rock concert, and allowed themselves to be swept away in the magic of the timeless story.

Prince Tamino – played by hometown hero Alexander Lewis, a graduate of The Metropolitan Opera and much in demand as a tenor throughout the US and Australia – falls in love with the beautiful Princess Pamina (Katja Webb). Pamina’s mother (Milica Ilic) is the Queen Of The Night, and promises her daughter’s hand to the young Prince only if he can rescue her from the evil sorcerer Sarastro (Daniel Sumegi), and her handmaidens send him off on his quest armed with the titular magical flute and the help of the cowardly but loyal bird catcher Papageno (played with superb comic timing by baritone James Clayton).

They encounter deceit and betrayal along the way, and are set a succession of tests to prove their good intentions. We learn that Sarastro holds Pamina prisoner so her evil mother cannot harm her and is actually her father! A misunderstanding leads to her believing Tamino doesn’t love her and she attempts to kill herself, before Tamino passes the tests set him, sees the truth, saves the girl, and vanquishes the evil Queen with help from the flute. There’s Freemasons and attempted murder, a monster, some dancing animals and even an attempt to elevate the resolution to a level of philosophical enlightenment. It’s like The Who’s Tommy, but without electricity!

There’s wonderful performances all round, with Tamino, Papageno and Pamina in particular captivating the crowd. The Queen’s handmaidens and the three young boys who help the Prince and his sidekick on their way are a delight, and the Queen herself delivers a majestical vocal performance, all on a simple but magically realised sloping stage that helps bring the story to life.

West Australian Opera has created a superb production which will delight opera buffs as well as novices like this reviewer. If your preconceptions about opera are as outdated as mine were, this show will allow you to access the story effortlessly and enjoy some outstanding live music – the orchestra, conducted by Brad Cohen, may live under the stage in their pit, but Cohen is in constant eye contact with the players on the stage, and his ensembles songs inhabit every nook and cranny of the elegant room and help, along with the updated reading of the story, to blow away any clichés from your mind.


Category: Live Reviews

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