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Tamino is rescued by the three ladies -- in this case vividly dressed and made-up to look like 17th or 18th century whores. I am not quite sure of the particular reason for this. Medcalf's view of the ladies was fundamentally comic -- they lacked the element of mysterious danger that some productions can bring to the role.

This was the main flaw in Medcalf's conception -- the opera became one about machinations in an early 19th century house party, albeit one with a company of priests of Isis and Osiris on tap. The element of danger and of fear was present, but rather modulated.

The ladies themselves (Rebecca von Lipinski, Flora McIntosh and Margaret Rapacioli) were delightful, with a nice taste in comic business and some irony. All three have rather 19th century voices, so they sang Mozart creditably but without a complete sense of style.

Papageno (David Stout) is the local gamekeeper, dressed in suitably Regency clothes with a feather in his hat; though he does have a bird's leg for his left fore-arm! Stout was the real find of the evening. He sings Papageno with a real feel for line and style, combining this with an appealing stage presence, both knowing and naïve. Stout did not have to resort to mugging or over-acting to achieve his point and his performance was comic without being over-stated. Just what was wanted, in fact.

Rebecca von Lipinski (first lady), Flora McIntosh (second lady), Margaret Rapacioli (third lady) and David Stout (Papageno). Photo © 2007 Alistair Muir
Rebecca von Lipinski (first lady), Flora McIntosh (second lady), Margaret Rapacioli (third lady) and David Stout (Papageno). Photo © 2007 Alistair Muir

One nice touch from Medcalf and his designer: when the ladies put the padlock on Papageno's mouth, it was a muzzle in the shape of a beak. Another nice idea was that Papageno's magic bells were in fact a celeste which David Stout rather impressively played himself -- surely a first.

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Copyright © 7 June 2007 Robert Hugill, London UK

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