Regular Battleaxe readers will know that whenever possible, we go to our 'local' Opera South-East productions at the White Rock. Sometimes great - sometimes less so. Last night we enjoyed ourselves at 'The Magic Flute'
The principals had become teachers or prefects, and the stage was inhabited by a squad of cute, pyjama-clad children, who gave a Harry Potterish dream-like, 'lost boys' feeling to the whole. They (very expertly) manipulated large building-block cubes with letters on. Papageno's magic bells were glitter balls on strings, (couldn't they have made some of the strings a bit longer so the tiniest children could reach them? They had to keep jumping up and down). The trials of fire and water were balloons filled with red and then blue glitter. All this was very attractive and effective.
The Queen of the Night was supposedly the head-mistress, which was OK, and Sarastro was a science master, which wasn't. The role was played by the wonderful Toby Sims - his background as a Russian Orthodox priest gives him masses of deep-bass mystic weight, and we have seen him pull off some blinders, but his zany mad scientist persona in this production did him no favours. Sarastro should be a dignified, grave, powerful figure, and his famous arias are some of the most stirring - and challenging - in the operatic repertoire. They include some of the lowest notes possible for singers. While Toby managed to get his voice down to the depths, he could have projected himself much better, and more easily, if he had been allowed to call on more strength and gravitas.
|Mad science teacher - no.|
|The Queen of the Night.... (all pictures from OSE website)|
The other principals have it a bit easier, and all did a really excellent job. You could hear every word Mark Bonney (Tamino) and James Williams (Papageno) sang and said. Pamina and Papagena were also very good.
|Pap...pappa.... very good|
It was a good night out.