Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The Magic Flute, Opera Australia, Sydney Opera House

Mozart's last opera is one of the permanent favourites of the repertoire. And it features some radiant tunes (in particular the ever-popular and ultra-challenging Queen of the Night aria). It also features a plot, which is where things get a little wobblier - it's a loosely written adventure epic where goodies and baddies switch places pretty much at random, the hero basically waits for other people to do stuff for him most of the time, and the villian's comeuppance is utterly a deux ex machina.

Julie Taymor's production takes all that and gives it an epic shine. A big perspex set of various geometric shapes and arcane symbols, with the various creatures in the plot represented by giant puppets. Even as the plot is making your eyes roll, the visuals are making you agog with wonder.

John Longmuir's Tamino is suitably stolid and heroic and does the heroic tenor thing which is to seem nice, heroic and possibly a little dim, but never the less handsome. Taryn Fiebig may be too good an actress for Pamina, paridoxically - her character is manipulated repeatedly and put through hell and you feel for her, to the point where you wish she wouldn't just accept everything at the end. Samuel Dundas' Papageno is fun and strange in the scene-stealing comic relief way, and manages to play well with an unexpected audience interruption (part of the risk of kids matinees - the kids start advising you if they get over invested!). Hannah Dahlenberg has both the trickiest aria of the night and the trickiest headgear, and pulls both off with aplomb. Benjamin Rasheed is pure panto villain as the unsubtly named "Monstratos".

I'll admit, this was my first go at opera live and in person (I've seen the occasional one on TV, but otherwise my musical education is pretty much musicals). And it's an odd one to kick off with, but never the less, was a suitable feast for the eyes and ears (even if it occasionally left the brain a tad bemused).

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