Nottingham Theatre Royal
There’s a school of thought that a decent Die Zauberflöte stands or falls on the strength (or lack thereof) of Papageno. Personally, I’ve always found the character capable of being immensely irritating and the mystifying preference of some to ham it up only intensifies my annoyance. Tonight’s culprit – Irish tenor, Gavin Ring – costumed as a bizarre combo of an extra from Mrs. Brown’s Boys and Vivien from The Young Ones, should’ve seen me bolting for the bar well before the end of Act 1. That I stayed was a testament to the overall excellence of one of the best Opera North productions I’ve ever seen. And, to be entirely fair, to Mr. Ring who, despite the shudderingly ridiculous costume, delivered a performance of warmth and charm.
The Magic Flute is one of only two operas, three at a push, that I can stand in English translation and while Schikeneder might have wept oceans at the liberties taken with his libretto, Opera North delivered a superb production.
The sets, FX and costumes held up well against anything on offer at Covent Garden this season and the pacing was perfect.
Musically, the company rarely fails to deliver, and this production was no exception. Many highlights but, for me, the Three Ladies were outstanding.
The poniards, hoodwinks, cabletows and regular steps (and a ‘Festive Board’ I kid you not!) provided nudge-nudge-wink-wink enjoyment for any Freemasons in the audience but the honours went to soprano Samantha Hays. Her Queen of The Night – unusually, all intense vulnerability and stricken pathos – was mesmerising and commanded the audience’s sympathy. Well, mine at least…