REVIEW: WA Opera’s ‘The Magic Flute’

The Magic Flute
by West Australian Opera
conducted by Brad Cohen
24th July 2014

After reading about the new Kosky production of the Magic Flute I was craving the new and the innovative, and was less that interested in seeing (the 3rd? or 4th?) re-staging of a production that is from every angle traditional, and familiar, and if I weren’t lured by the prospect of seeing some friends (in the chorus) in costume I’d quite likely not have gone. But I’m very glad that I did.

This production was evidence that music, when done simply, and well, is freed, and able to speak for itself. Music need not rely of the new in order to be affecting, and good music needs very little to endear itself to an audience. I know the Magic Flute so well that I could sing along to almost every aria – so well that the translation used at times grated against my preference for a different (and imo funnier) line – but that’s much of a muchness. From the very first bars of the overture I felt at ease in the familiar sounds for Mozart. I do have quite a particular way that I like to hear Mozart played, and for me tempo is everything, and so it was a delight to find that once the overture hit the Allegro it took off at just the right speed – neither dragging (for that’s unbearable and sounds like a stutter) nor rushing or tripping (fasterfaster!! some people think) and it had the joyful lightness that Mozart needs – for his is a world that is bright and full of a contentment, and there is simply no need to rush, and it should sound like the simplest of things.

Anyway, the tempo pulled me in sync and I went along quite happily with the entire performance – I knew what was going to happen, but I didn’t mind, and watching the drama unfold had the feeling of familiar – like watching your favourite movie for the 100th time – and I couldn’t help but laugh. A lot about a performance I think does depend on the audience you have, and yesterday’s performance was to a packed house, and a eager audience – we were all completely won over and there was much laughing – at least there was up with the gods, where I was sitting. It was opera that was fun and at the same time beautiful, and of course that comes down to Mozart’s writing, but a lot has to be said in praise for the performers – this was Katja Webb’s (playing Pamina) best performance so far and had a security to it, and a dramatic integrity that was so far above her other recent performances with WA Opera (Violetta, Donna Elvira) – finally she shone as a talent, and as a musician worth watching. And worth a mention was James Clayton’s (Papaggeno) performance, which was natural, and seemed like second nature, and Milica Ilic (queen of the night) who effortlessly hit every note. In this production everyone seemed comfortable in their roles and the music just flowed so nicely – it was a definite step up, musically speaking, from the last few seasons of WA Opera’s offerings – were there more rehearsals? Does everyone just have an affinity for singing Mozart? Did something just click? Whatever it was, please keep doing it – for I’d like very much to keep hearing good music.

There is One more show of this production tomorrow night (Saturday the 26th July) Tickets available HERE.

Conductor – Brad Cohen//Original Director – Göran Järvefelt//Rehearsal Director – Rachel McDonald//Designer – Carl Friedrich Oberle//Lighting Designer – Nigel Levings

Tamino – Alexander Lewis//Papageno – James Clayton//Pamina – Katja Webb//Queen of the Night – Milica Ilic//Sarastro – Daniel Sumegi

with the WA Opera Chorus and the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra

The Magic Flute
 West Australia Opera
15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 26 July 2014 – His Majesty’s TheatrE, Perth
Website. Facebook. Event page. Tickets.

Other reviews: WA Today.com