Edinburgh International Festival opera review: The Magic Flute at Edinburgh Festival Theatre, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kenneth Walton
Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade’s production of The Magic Flute for Komische Opera Berlin will have you rolling in the aisles.
You might think you’ve mistakenly come to the cinema (in the 1920s) as the brilliantly animated concept is of a classic silent film. But that is its genius. Kosky’s vision, in collaboration with Andrade and animator Paul Barritt’s company, 1927, presents Mozart’s classic entertainment, with all its pantomimic fun, twisted nuances and dark shadows, as exactly that – non-stop entertainment.
The set is a full-size screen with in-built revolving doors and platforms to facilitate the characters’ instant coming and going. The whole opera is now a wacky, cartoonesque creation, busy from start to finish with projected animations that manipulate the characters and illuminate the story.
There are clear references to the silent film era – a Buster Keaton-styled Papageno, the evil Monostatos as Nosferatu, the pouting Pamina clearly modelled on Louise Brooks, the straight-laced, top-hatted Sorastro, and an ingenious solution to the opera’s troubling dialogue whereby the words are simply thrown up on screen to the inserted accompaniment of Mozart piano Fantasies, played silent film-style.
The visual jokes are relentless, requiring split-second timing and positioning by the cast, whose embracing of the concept is quite extraordinary. I’ve never heard an opera audience roar so much with laughter.
The danger, of course, is that it all subsumes the music, and there are certainly instances where Allan Clayton’s Tamino, Olga Padova’s Queen of the Night, Dominik Köninger’s Papageno and Maureen Mackay’s Pamina seem hemmed in by the physical restrictions. But this is easily countered by the vibrancy of the orchestra, under Kristiina Poska.
And given how impressive and forward-looking a take on a Mozart classic this is, the experience is one not to be missed. There’s something very prophetic about the future of opera production in this.
Published in The Scotsman on 29 August 2015
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