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Magic piccolo?

English Touring Opera visits Derby,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


The (little) magic flute (or should that be The magic piccolo?) is English Touring Opera's pocket-sized version of Mozart's opera, designed for families and schools. Cut to about two hours, it is sung by a cast of six, thanks to some judicious role-doubling, and the scoring reduced to a quartet of flute, clarinet, violin and cello, directed from the piano by, in this performance, Clement Power.

The hard-working cast sang well, though in the spoken scenes some of them need to be encouraged to act a little less stiffly. Brad Cooper was an ardent Tamino -- though he occasionally tended to scoop up to high notes -- and he was effectively menacing as Monostatos. Melinda van de Meulen's Queen of Night had steady tone and secure high notes, Tara Overend was a radiant Pamina, including a genuinely touching duet with Papageno in Act 1, Jessica Summers a bright and breezy Papagena. John Milne's Sarastro was dignified and authoritative (when he wasn't required to perform an absurd little prance round the stage, the point of which escaped me). He took a while to warm up but was in splendidly sonorous voice by the middle of Act 2. But stealing every scene, and getting the most laughs, was Joe Corbett's (genuinely) Irish, simple-hearted Papageno.

Stage direction was generally well conceived, though when the Three Ladies kill the dragon chasing Tamino they stab the air in front of them, although the dragon is behind them. When Tamino fainted, anyone new to the opera could have been forgiven for momentarily thinking that they'd killed him instead.

Some of the cuts in Act 2 left the scenario rather disjointed, and having the full cast on stage for the final chorus meant, thanks to the doubled roles, the Queen of Night joining in the celebrations -- an improbable sudden conversion to Sarastro's cause.

Nit-picking apart, it's a really enjoyable, well-paced show. The large party of 8-10 year-olds in the audience loved it. So if it's in your area take the kids -- take anyone new to opera who's prepared to abandon sophisticated adult responses for a couple of hours. And when you get home you can open out the programme and play the Magic Flute board game on the back.

Copyright © 11 October 2005 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


The performance reviewed was on Thursday 6 October 2005 at The Assembly Rooms, Derby, UK. Information about further performances is online at

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