Review: THE MAGIC FLUTE Returns To Charm And Delight at Sydney Opera House, Joan Sutherland Theatre

By: Jan. 14, 2016
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Lovers torn between cosmic forces keeping them apart? A magic quest of heroism and spiritual initiation? Carnal avian desire? I'll bet you're not expecting me to say THE MAGIC FLUTE is a great performance to take your kids to, but that's exactly what I'm about to do! Opera Australia's first offering of the 2016 season is a spectacle and extravaganza well worth culturing your children with, all the while having a few chuckles of your own.

Although it is a bit undermined by the fact that Opera Australia did it this way last year, popular demand will have its way and this beloved production finds itself back at the Opera House for the third time in five years. I much prefer opera when it isn't in English, especially with a story so visual, but there comes a time in every reviewer's life when we have to realise: it's not actually about us! I was sat next to a bright-eyed boy, and seeing it through his eyes reminded me how important it is that shows like this do give kids a chance to relate to this traditional art form.

Prince Tamino is rescued from a serpent by three lecherous ladies, and by virtue of his apparent bravery he is sent on a quest to rescue Princess Pamina, daughter to the mysterious Queen of the Night. For companionship, the chatty birdman Papageno who originally claimed the rescue as his own, joins him to slay the evil sorcerer Sacramento. Upon arrival at the sorcerer's temple, it is revealed neither he nor the Queen are all they seem and a remarkable and colourful journey of discovery is undertaken by the young ones as their search for each other becomes far more universal.

The Magic Flute is remembered for its music, one of the last of Mozart's works before his death, particularly the soprano parts played by Hannah Dahlenburg and Taryn Fiebig with stunning vocal clarity. What will make this production memorable is the inimitable touch of Julie Taymor, of The Lion King fame. The puppetry and costuming really brought the fantasy realm to life and delighted the audience. Brilliant stage-wide snakes and birds that swooped and flapped, flying spirits and dancing bears made a real marvel of this work directed by Matthew Barclay. George Tsypin's set design added to the entertainment, looking more like a magic show set than an opera, a fresh take really needed to kick off the 2016 season.

Star turns by Samuel Dundas as comic lead Papageno, and Dahlenburg puts on such a wonderful vocal you almost wish the story turns out differently for her character. The dynamism of this production is its real strength, the duration goes by at lightning speed while you're captivated by the visual scope of the show. If you've always looked for an opportunity to introduce your younger cohorts to an art form of high esteem and technique, your window is here.

Samuel Dundas (Pagageno) in Opera Australia's The Magic Flute.
Photo credit: Branco Gaica
Taryn Fiebig (Pamina) and Samuel Dundas (Papageno) in Opera Australia's The Magic Flute.
Photo credit: Branco Gaica
Kanen Breen (Monostatos) in Opera Australia's The Magic Flute.
Photo credit: Branco Gaica
John Longmuir (Tamino) in Opera Australia's The Magic Flute.
Photo credit: Branco Gaica
Hannah Dahlenburg (Queen of The Night) in Opera Australia's The Magic Flute.
Photo credit: Branco Gaica


Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

30th December 2015 - 16 January 2016


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