The Magic Flute. Sydney Opera House. 7.30pm Thursday 22nd Jan 2009.
This David Freeman production is a smash hit for the Sydney Summer Festival and I recommend everyone should consider getting a ticket if they like that sort of thing or if they are new to Flute. Don’t be put off by the price since tickets are freely available from $42 mid-week … in restricted view positions in the middle loges - Y / B which were empty on opening night. While I find this opera (or ‘singspiel’ more correctly) has long dull patches, it is still a favourite with audiences down the ages. And it contains some of the most glorious arias ever written, linked as they are by a somewhat tiresome text akin to a pantomime or moral play. Glyndebourne had the right idea 20 years ago by cutting all the talking!
My comments are incomplete as I had to leave shortly after the second Queen of Night’s aria - which was brilliantly sung by Emma Pearson. She was indeed a splendid Queen of Night in every respect. After her stratospheric second aria she received a roar of cheers and acclaim from the audience. Her vocal and dramatic performance had been dazzling indeed - including her first act O zittre nicht which was sung sitting in an oversized alabaster illuminated quarter moon suspended by wires high above the stage. She deserves risk money!
Daniel Sumegi as Sarastro sings the haunting In diesen heil'gen Hallen which has some of the lowest notes written. The previous aria had the highest! Mozart must have been a mean machine … or else he disliked singers!
It seemed curious that Emma Matthews was playing Pamina again since she is so ideally suited to the great coloratura roles like Lucia. Marilyn Horne said in a master class that once a soprano had the fiendishly difficult Ach! Ich fuhls ‘in the voice’, the rest of this role was a ‘walk-over’. Matthews’ Konstanze in Seraglio two years ago was excellent and perfectly suited to her remarkably agile voice. She could also sing the Queen of Night I imagine.
Warwick Fyfe as the bird man was a bit ‘rough and ready’ and the dialogue he was given sounded ‘Ocker’ and even embarrassing at times. He even came on stage with his personal barbecue and tinnies. And he has a large voice and sings in tune.
Kanen Breen was Monostatos and this is possibly the best thing I have seen/heard him do. And his mostly original dialogue, being quite poignant with the new white house incumbent this past week. Stephen Bennett is back as an excellent Masonic mentor, as was his priestly partner in Graham MacFarlane.
Mr Goodwin makes a fine Tamino, a difficult role somewhere between cantor singing and performing in a radio play. The high point for me is the famous portrait aria.
Ollivier-Phillipe Cuneo conducted confidently and the brass players did themselves proud on this occasion.
The clever and quirky production looks to be set in the Amazon jungle … vines and unexpected animals/birds everywhere in dark shadows. Other sections seem to take place in a giant pietra dura jewel box. As valid as any other interpretation, I suppose, considering it is a fantasy work … and Schikaneder would probably be delighted (the impresario also played Papageno at the opening). It is amazing to know that this was written in the same period as La Clemenza di Tito in the final months of Mozart’s short but productive life.
Comments by Andrew Byrne ..
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