Bristol Hippodrome


Magic Flute - February 2015


It is strange and certainly not true


The Magic Flute in a nutshell is about separated royal parents who are locked in a bitter custody battle in a plot divorced from reality - I think.

The storyline of good versus evil – right versus wrong has Masonic undertones mixed with magic and music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

But the Welsh National Opera production which played the Bristol Hippodrome this week presented a surreal and contemporary interpretation of this strange fairytale.

The highlight for me was the Queen of Night singing her aria with all its ‘O’s and ‘I’s as the vocal range of soprano Samantha Hay is amazing.

Her entrance in a puff of smoke wearing a huge black and green silk ballgown is majestic.

And another standout performance was that of Jacques Imbralio as the jester bird-catcher Papageno and his quest to net a bride.

With his multi-coloured feathered costume this South African baritone is a dead-ringer for 1950s comic Danny Kaye.

With people in the stalls laughing out loud the humour did come across but it was a odd show although the talented delivery of the dialogue and accentuated mannerisms of the characters helped heaps.

Among the remarks I overheard on the way out were ‘wasn’t it wonderful’ and ‘I didn’t get it’.

I would put it on par with the 2013 science fiction arthouse film Under the Skin starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress and that equally divided audiences.

The Magic Flute opens with a monster fight straight from Alice in Wonderland involving a clawed crustacean.

'Tis the voice of the Lobster: I heard him declare

You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair.

I am not sure Mozart would have envisaged this performance with its Kafka influences and optical illusion set but at times the cast looked as if they should have been in Clockwork Orange.

There were six, no nine doors, and lots trapdoors but the company didn’t put a foot wrong ... luckily.

The blurb says 'director Dominic Cooke presents a bold production that combines Mozart's sublime music with surreal staging featuring an angry lobster, a newspaper reading lion and a fish doubling as a bicycle'. 

And yes it certainly does that.

A rich mix of comedy, pantomime, philosophy and religion, on a breathtaking Magritte-inspired set design, The Magic Flute is an irrepressibly entertaining evening.

The seductive powers of the sinister three strait-laced maids are revealed by their bright red undergarments and the love interests played by Allan Clayton as Prince Tamino and Sophia Bevan as Princess Pamina were almost reduced to supporting roles such was the strength of Miss Hay and Jacques Imbralio performances.

If given a choice I prefer the passion and emotion of an Italian opera but my senses like being challenged.

And after nearly three hours the curtain comes down on the Big Brother Orwellian finale with its all seeing ‘eye’.

The Magic Flute is part of the Spellbound spring tour by an opera company at the top of its game.

Thank you for inviting me.

Carol Deacon

Welsh Nation Opera preview


A season of enchantment and delight is on offer from Welsh National Opera this spring with a trio of spellbinding productions which will come to the Bristol Hippodrome for four nights in April.

Spellbound is the theme for spring 2015 which plays from Wednesday to Saturday, April 8-11 and will highlight the natural affinity between music and magic with revivals of Hansel & Gretel and The Magic Flute alongside a new production: Chorus!  

Opening WNO’s Spring 2015 season is a new production of Chorus!.

The original concept was conceived by WNO and directed by David Pountney in 2004.  

This new version, also under the creative vision and direction of David Pountney, celebrates one of WNO’s greatest assets, the Chorus.

Chorus! will feature soprano Lesley Garrett CBE performing alongside the WNO Chorus, and will be an enchanting, witty and spectacular journey through the rich repertoire of choral music and a chance to experience some of opera’s best-loved moments. 

Chorus! will include opera classics such as the Humming Chorus from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Va Pensiero from Verdi’s Nabucco alongside the Epigraph from Prokofiev’s War and Peace and Alabama Song from Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.  

Two pieces from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance will also feature: A Policeman’s Lot and With Cat-like Tread.

Chorus! will be conducted by WNO Chorus Master, Alexander Martin.

Classic revivals of The Magic Flute and Hansel & Gretel will transport the audience into a world of magic, make-believe and delight, but are also ultimately about the power of rationalism over magic. WNO music director Lothar Koenigs will conduct both Hansel & Gretel and The Magic Flute.

Mozart’s much-loved The Magic Flute returns to WNO in this Magritte-inspired production – originally directed by Dominic Cooke – which features an angry lobster, a newspaper-reading lion and a fish that is transformed into a bicycle. In Bristol,

The Magic Flute will feature Allan Clayton singing the role of Tamino and Sophie Bevan singing Pamina.  

South African-born baritone Jacques Imbrailo will sing the role of Papageno, and Samantha Hay will sing the Queen of the Night.

The roles of the three boys will be sung by female students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama as part of WNO’s partnership with the college to provide mentoring and support for its Opera Performance students. 

The revival of Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel – originally directed by Richard Jones – is a dark re-telling of the well-known fairytale.  

Ailish Tynan will sing Gretel and Jurgita Adamonyté will sing Hansel.  Adrian Thompson, who returns to WNO following his performances in Boulevard Solitude in Spring 2013, will sing the role of The Witch. 

Describing the spring season, WNO chief executive and artistic director David Pountney said: “Enchantment is a feeling that awakens the child in all of us, and The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel offer plenty of such moments of naive delight.  

"Both operas too, like all good fairy tales, have a serious point to make, and show a young couple learning how to read and understand the good and the bad that is in the world, emerging stronger and ready for a better future.  

"Our production of Chorus! too is like one of those walks in the woods that are the common fare of fairy tales: where will it lead - is there a happy ending, or indeed an ending at all?  

"It is in fact a kind of mystery tour in the company of 40 of our best and finest singers - so whatever the ending means, you can be sure it will be a rousing one!” 

More information on WNO’s spring season click HERE.