A Review of WA Opera’s The Magic Flute
By Candice Barnes
It’s one of the most difficult soprano roles in opera, and it takes a magnificent voice to pull off the iconic Queen of the Night aria.
Serbian-born, Brisbane-based soprano Milica Ilic has been called in to lend her colouratura voice to WA Opera’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. What started as a supporting performance in Act One turned into a show-stopper in Act Two, with Ilic’s voice dancing through the registers to hit the high F in her character’s signature tune.
Plus, she gets to wear a glittering gown and tiara – ornate even by opera standards.
To have that much of an impact among the experienced WA Opera cast is a feat in itself. James Clayton as lovable buffoon Papageno provided the light relief, and shined alongside Jennifer Barrington as love interest Papagena.
Those who normally think opera is a bit of a yawn might find this production more palatable. For a start, it is sung in English (with English subtitles) and there are a number of scenes where dialogue (in Australian accent) is favoured over vocals.
As in many operas, and other works of bygone eras, the female characters are fairly one-dimensional. Leading lady Pamina (Katja Webb) alternated between damsel-in-distress and serene loved-up sidekick, though it was nice to see her take charge during the ‘flood trial’.
The male characters are similarly simplistic – virtuous in resisting the ‘temptations’ of women-folk and only worthy of praise if they are willing to put their bodies on the line to save damsels and cross deadly terrain to seek ‘enlightenment’.
That said, Alexander Lewis (as the young hero Tamino) brought depth to the role, with his gradual transition from scaredy-cat to initiated Freemason. Monostatos (Robert Macfarlane) was an absolute creep, simultaneously hating and loving Pamina for rejecting him.
Daniel Sumegi was in fine form as temple leader Sarastro, his bass voice boomed with authority – the literal ‘voice of reason’. The modern audience may question why the ‘enlightened’ Sarastro keeps slaves in his temple, something which again can be put down to the era of the work.
The Magic Flute runs until 26 July at His Majesty’s Theatre.