A Magic Flute | CICT/Theatre des Bouffes du Nord
Photo – P. Victor
In Peter Brook's pared down A Magic Flute, in Perth as part of the Perth International Arts Festival, the audience is able to appreciate the simplicity of Mozart's score with a classic tale of loss, greed, love and redemption. A joint production between France's CICT and Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, the performance is spoken in French and sung in German, and has been freely adapted by Brook, Franck Krawczyk and Marie-Hélène Estienne.
The stage is pure Brook; empty of all set pieces and props except for the grand piano and numerous bamboo poles which are used (mostly effectively) to demarcate locations. The lighting by Philippe Vialatte unfortunately lacked the finesse for it to go unnoticed; there were too many moments where lighting changes overtook the scenes.
The piano was superbly played by Rémi Atasay, never overpowering the singers nor fading out unnoticed. What it lacked, understandably, was the depth that an orchestra brings. Whilst beautiful in its simplicity, I felt the scenes with the flute playing may have benefited from, surprise surprise, a flute playing.
There were consistently skilful performances from the singers, who will alternate through the seven performances with another cast. Although the program doesn't state who performs each night, a little internet digging established that the opening night cast consisted of Adrian Strooper (Tamino), Dima Bawab (Pamina), Malia Bendi-Merad (Reine de la nuit), Betsabée Haas (Papagena), Thomas Dolié (Papageno), Vincent Pavesi (Sarastro) and Raphael Brémard (Monostatos). Two actors, Abdou Ouologuem and Stéphane Soo Mongo, complete the ensemble.
Strooper had a real presence on stage, and his rich tenor voice had the audience captivated, easily convincing us of his love for Pamina. As the Queen of the Night, Bendi-Merad delivered an exceptional performance of the popular and difficult aria "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" (The vengeance of hell boils in my heart). The standout performer for me was Dolié as Papageno, who was comical, heartwarming and utterly loveable as well as an exceptional baritone.
Whilst Brook's production has stripped back opera to its bare bones, offering us clarity and lightness, I felt at times the adaption of the piece lacked consistency. In particular, the ending was a little too sudden for my liking, and a little too obvious. None the less for opera and music lovers, this is still a production to see; Mozart's score gets to shine in this simple, fresh production.
CICT/Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
A Magic Flute
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | freely adapted by Peter Brook, Franck Krawczyk and Marie-Hélène Estienne
Directed by Peter Brook
Venue: Octagon Theatre, UWA
Dates: Feb 18 – 25, 2012
Tickets: $82 – $25