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In Act 2 the Regency setting becomes less important as we work our way through the trials. Here the comic elements were neatly dovetailed with the more serious ones. Medcalf and his cast had obviously worked hard on the dialogue (in Amanda Holden's English version). The results were by turns entertaining and moving, with both Elizabeth Atherton and David Stout showing a nice line in poignancy.

The three boys (Karin Thyselius, Hanna Jones and Zoe Taylor) popped up neatly at various points, without ever clarifying who they really are. But that does not matter when they are as delightfully sung and performed as here.

The final scene, after the trials, was satisfying and moving. Medcalf had managed to retain much of the work's darkness and struggle so that the reconciliation, when it happens, was a necessary catharsis.

All the singers delivered Amanda Holden's translation with superb diction, making all aspects of the plot understandable. Whilst Holden had jettisoned the less politically correct aspects of Monastatos' colour, she had retained the libretto's view of women; a view which is rather essential to the plot and which fitted in with its Regency location.

The final image of the production was of Tamino and Pamino, back in modern dress, now reconciled.

The production was efficiently conducted by Richard Balcombe; he and the English Chamber Orchestra supported the singers beautifully and provided some fine Mozartian style. I did feel that a stronger Mozartian stylist and disciplinarian might have helped in the pit. Someone like Sir Charles Mackerras would surely have made what was a pleasant and creditably performed evening into that something extra.

The cast was beautifully balanced and made a fine ensemble. But the stand out performances were inevitably Victoria Joyce as The Queen of the Night and David Stout, who was superb as Papageno.

Copyright © 7 June 2007 Robert Hugill, London UK



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