Left – Andrew Jones and Artists of Opera Australia. Photo – Jeff Busby
Brisbane is aglow, like one who has found a long lost lover. After a 24 year absence in Queensland, Opera Australia has returned with their reproduction (from the New York Metropolitan Opera's original work) of The Magic Flute by Mozart. It is a sumptuous, fantastical feast of visually and aurally spectacular theatre. A stunning and captivating piece so exquisitely realised, that it would be difficult for any theatre goer (regardless of their love or indifference to opera) to not be in awe of this truly breathtaking performance.
The story is classic fairy tale, a hero's (Prince Tamino) journey to save the princess (Pamina). He faces a myriad of trials; complete with happy ending for all on the side of good. What makes The Magic Flute so special is its style – a singspiel, an opera that feels like musical theatre's cousin. Opera Australia's wonderfully talented cast performed The Magic Flute's vocal acrobatics with such remarkable brilliance and seemingly poised ease, that I didn't need the surtitles for at least 90% of the performance. Milica Illic's performance as Queen of the Night, including her famous aria, was sublime, as the audience's calls of bravo were testament. Andrew Jones was endearing as the comedic Papageno, his playful energy carried wonderfully through his entire performance. Highly memorable performances were also given by Taryn Fiebig as the beautiful and refined Pamina and Stephen Smith who played the valiant Tamino. Kanen Breen's performance was superb as the dark and menacing Monostatos. The entire ensemble's performance, combined with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under concert master Warwick Adeney, were the essential elements of magnificence and magic that would not have otherwise propelled this performance to the heights it reached for the audience.
The visual spectacle of The Magic Flute resonates deeply and appeals on many levels. It's the luminous vision of Original Production/Costume and Puppetry Designer Julie Taymor and Set Designer George Tsypin. It is a dreamscape kaleidoscope of vivid carnival and Commedia dell'Arte meets Masonic Egyptian twist. The use of puppetry is completely enchanting, as are the animalistic aspects that infuse much of the design. Lighting Designer Donald Holder brilliantly heightens every moment of the piece, as per the original design by Gary Marder. The dance sequences are captivating, especially the exotic birds who come to court and play with Papageno. Matthew Barclay dazzles and flirts with the audience through his direction and choreography based on the original direction by Julie Taymor and choreography by Mark Dendy. At the dramatic heart of the set is an astonishing creation, a giant cubed perspex puzzle-like piece that transforms and delights as a geometric playground for the performers.
Perhaps those versed in opera, and the plot and intricacies of Mozart's The Magic Flute, will find something within this performance to play down or criticize, but as a relative newcomer to the world of opera I was thoroughly mesmerised by this performance. There is so much to relish and wonder at within this show, from the stellar cast, to the mythical story, to the enchanting characters, to the elaborate visual extravagance. Regardless of age or preference for theatrical mode of performance there will be something to astonish and delight all who attend this rich production. Opera Australia's performance of The Magic Flute is so delicious it's guaranteed to be a performance you will never forget.
Opera Australia presents
THE MAGIC FLUTE
by W. A. Mozart
Director Matthew Barclay
Venue: Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC)
Dates: 26 May – 8 June, 2012
Reproduced from the original production by The Metropolian Opera, New York