Magical Music Theatre
PATRIC STANDFORD was at the first night
of Opera North's 'The Magic Flute'
Opera North first ran its production of The Magic Flute in 2003 when it used a new English translation by the poet Carol Anne Duffy and brought in Tim Supple as a neatly creative director. The partnership was extremely successful, but not to be complacent about it, they decided to revive and refresh that production; and the current season's inclusion of this strange piece of magical music theatre [first performance 12 January 2007, Leeds Grand Theatre, UK] is now even better. Yet no amount of reasonably faithful production can escape the fact that it is a story poised inconsistently between a fairy-tale comedy (Prince given magical powers by a mythical Queen to assist the rescue of her daughter captured by an Evil Power) and a drama of Masonic symbolism in which the roles of Queen and evil power have been reversed.
Monostatos (Andrew Clarke) threatens Pamina (Noriko Urata) with torture. Photo © 2007 Richard Moran
By Act 2 she is no longer the Sternflammende Königin or divine starry goddess that descended to earth earlier from the clouds amid thunder (a Berlin reviewer in 1791 called the piece 'the comedy with machines', the thunder apparently a convenient stage device to hide the awful noise of the pulleys and wheels) but rather a 'Queen of the Night', just as Sarastro turns unaccountably from the böser Dämon who had committed her daughter to the torture chambers, to the wise and good high priest, intent on furthering the superior Masonic ideals that make it important that the prince Tamino should not listen too seriously to the chattering of women, but should rather marry one in order to keep her from straying from righteous paths! ('Beware the tricks of women' sing the priests, 'this is the group's first duty'.)
Papageno (Roderick Williams) and Papagena (Fflur Wyn). Photo © 2007 Richard Moran
Copyright © 16 January 2007
Patric Standford, Wakefield UK