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A Celebratory Feel

Grange Park Opera's 'The Magic Flute',
reviewed by ROBERT HUGILL


Grange Park Opera's new production of Mozart's The Magic Flute (seen Saturday 2 June 2007) is part of the company's 10th season. As the whole season has, understandably, a celebratory feel, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Francis O'Connor chose to set the piece in a building closely resembling Grange Park Opera's home, Northington Grange, itself.

During the overture a projection showed a young man and a young woman, in modern dress, fleeing the rain and entering the neo-classical portico of Northington Grange. As the overture continued we saw them on-stage entering a distressed room with three grand neo-classical doorways, a room such as might exist in Northington Grange itself. The couple proceeded to have an argument in dumb show and the young woman left. The young man fell asleep in a conveniently abandoned chair.

The opera opened with the young man, Tamino, struggling with the serpent; only in this case the serpent was a projection (and a very effective one too). Throughout the opera Stephen Medcalf had Tamino asleep in the chair when he was not involved in the action; in his note in the programme Medcalf states that he feels that the story is a journey from dark to light for each of the characters, and that each learns the transforming power of love. The implication would seem to be that the opera is some sort of allegory.

In a festival setting like Grange Park's it is all too easy for a production of The Magic Flute to turn into a pantomimic romp which ignores the work's more serious undertone. By jettisoning the masonic ritual customarily applied to the opera and by setting it in a country house milieu familiar to the audience, Medcalf succeeded in bringing out some of the darker elements of the plot whilst making the piece entertaining. Medcalf included a number of country house/country life elements in the production: Papageno's birds that he caught were, of course, game birds, and the beasts that he tames are deer and other local wildlife.

Pamina (Elizabeth Atherton), Richard Coxon (Monostatos), David Stout (Papageno) and the household. Photo © 2007 Alistair Muir
Pamina (Elizabeth Atherton), Richard Coxon (Monostatos), David Stout (Papageno) and the household. Photo © 2007 Alistair Muir

Adrian Dwyer as Tamino had an appealingly earnest stage presence; he made believable Tamino's bewilderment and essential goodness. Unfortunately Dwyer has a rather high-tension voice; he lacks the ease of production that the role calls for. He also gave occasional indications that the tessitura of the role was a little uncomfortable for him. Dwyer has already started to make a name for himself in 19th century Italian opera and it would seem that his voice is leading him this way. His Tamino was a creditable achievement and it may be that he settles into the role during the run, but I don't feel that Mozart will be key to Dwyer's future development.

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Copyright © 7 June 2007 Robert Hugill, London UK


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