BWW Review: ADELAIDE FRINGE 2016: THE MAGIC FLUTE Couldn't Be Better
Reviewed by Barry Lenny Thursday 18th February 2016The glorious irony of Mozart's opera, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte), being performed in Adelaide's Freemason's Great Hall, was not lost on anybody. In a world first, it appears that this opera has never been performed in a Masonic building in its entire history. Mozart was a Master Mason for his last seven years of life and, as Brother Mozart, he wrote a good deal of music for the Masons. The libretto was written by Mozart's friend and fellow Mason, Emanuel Schikaneder, a singer, actor and impresario. They worked very closely together so, in reality, the libretto is more of a joint effort, but the music is all Mozart. To detail all of the reasons why this is referred to as the Masonic opera is far beyond the scope of this review, but one of the most obvious is the use of the number three in the opera, a number of great significance to Masons. The primary key in the opera is E flat, which has three flats in the key signature. The overture uses a significant rhythmic device, the secret knock of a short and two long beats. Mozart actually exposes many of the secret rituals of Masonry in this opera, and this production elaborates on the connection. David Lampard's wonderful and quirky set and costume designs are thick with Masonic symbolism and his direction of the production subtly highlights more of them. The set has to be seen to be appreciated, appearing as a huge backdrop of a sun with rays spilling out from it, creating an almost leadlight appearance, then suddenly being revealed as a series of columns that can be moved and rotated to create many other scenes. The set is lit by Daniel Barber who has created one of the most richly inventive and complex plots I can recall, with more lighting cues than one could care to count. The sun and rays side of the set itself is internally lit in many small sections using LED lighting that allows endless colour changes, wirelessly controlled, and the stage lighting seems to be constantly changing. It is visually stunning when added to the set and costumes. Conducting the production is Luke Dollman, who has done a magnificent job with all of the singers and especially with the members of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra who are playing for this marvellous production. He is to be commended. The first threesome that we meet is the three Ladies: Deborah Caddy, Rosanne Hosking, and Meran Bow, providing some beautifully well-balanced harmonies, who save Tamino, a sterling performance from Brenton Spiteri, from a snake. When he awakens they have turned the snake's skin into a coat for him. He quickly realises that he is no longer in the earthly realm, and is soon taken before the Queen of the Night, Joanna McWaters giving a powerful presence to the role, who sends him on a quest to rescue her daughter from Sarastro, Robert England in his usual fine form, commanding in his marvellous stillness. Tamino is shown a picture of her daughter, Pamina, Naomi Hede sounding better then ever, improving with every hearing, and falls immediately in love and swears to save Pamina from her kidnapper and return her to her mother. Like it or not, though, Tamino ends up with a sidekick, the hopeless and hapless Papageno, the feather covered bird catcher, an inveterate liar and fool, which is a gem of a role for the inventive Nicholas Cannon, who ensures that the audience gets plenty of laughs from this production. They are given gifts to help them, Tamino the magic flute of the title, and Papageno some magic bells. You won't believe Papageno's magic bells when you see them. Monostatos is Zarastro's henchman, a cruel bully and a coward, and Pamina's jailer. She escapes, but is recaptured, then rescued by Papageno, the two setting off to find Tamino, until all are caught. Adam Goodburn tackles the role of Monostatos, scowling and growling, then running for cover at any sign of danger. He finds a balance between the wickedness of the character and the comical truth behind the facade. We soon meet another threesome, the Child Sprites: Sarah-Jane Pattichis, Lisa Cannizzaro, and Rachel McCall, who delight the audience with their youthful exuberance, and considerable cheekiness, which they carry right through to the final bows. Finally, Papageno finds what he is seeking a Papagena to share his life, and a very talented new face, Karina Jay, recently graduated from her studies, who gives him a good run for his money, before finally revealing her real self to him.Jeremy Tatchell, Beau Sandford, Joshua Rowe, Mark Oates, Daniel Goodburn, and Norbert Hohl fulfil a variety of duties during the production and members of the State Opera Chorus add their voices to the performance with all of the quality that we have come to expect from them under the guidance of their Chorus Master, and also CEO and Artistic Director of State Opera, Timothy Sexton. This is a solid gold production and a sold out season to boot. State Opera have started the year on a huge high. If you can get one or two of those last few tickets you will see exactly what I mean. This production definitely needs and deserves an extension or a return season, and it is to be hoped that it is toured to regional centres and interstate. They deserve to see it. At the time of writing, there were still some tickets left for Monday 22nd, but all other performances are sold out, so run like the wind for a ticket. Here is a taste of what it is all about.