Opera Scotland

Zauberflöte 2014English Touring Opera

Read more about the opera Magic Flute

With Perth's intimate little theatre off-limits during its redevelopment period, English Touring Opera's visit this year was to the much larger Perth Concert Hall. The hall's orchestra pit was opened up, it seems for the first time. The hall has nearly three times the theatre's audience capacity, and the downside is that the company gave only a single performance of The Magic Flute. The more adventurous elements of this spring tour, Tippett's King Priam and Britten's Paul Bunyan, were left down south. Let us hope that when those highly-regarded stagings are eventually revived they will be seen in an even lovelier rejuvenated theatre.

The Magic Flute came in a revival of the 2009 staging by Liam Steel. This was still a great success, making enterprising use of a variety of levels in the staging to introduce clever variation of perspective, and more visual interest that was expected. While the concert hall's stage is large, the set was as compact as before, with decent sized wing areas concealed at either side. The pit looked and sounded good, and had plenty of space to spare with ETO's orchestra in place. The audience, while not quite a sell-out, reached 1100, which is well over twice the theatre's capacity. Altogether this is a promising foundation for the future. The theatre will not yet be ready for next year's Festival, when ETO's blockbuster will be La bohème. This should work well, but it is to be hoped that they, and the Festival authorities, will have enough courage to bring at least one of the rareties.

Most of the major roles on the tour were double cast, Only one member of the excellent 2009 cast was in Perth (and Maciek O'Shea was then a cover for the bass who was this time promoted to Sarastro). The new Tamino, Ashley Catling, had been heard before, if rarely seen - he has twice sung from a stage box (in Scottish Opera's Friend of the People and ETO's Clemenza di Tito) while a sickly tenor mimed the part on stage. He has a pleasantly lyrical voice, excellent for Tamino, and it sounded well in the much larger auditorium. The characterisation of Papageno was different this time, with Wyn Pencarreg making effective use of his natural Welshness.

Two newcomers had great success as Pamina and Queen of Night. Both sweet-toned and beautifully phrased, Anna Patalong and Samantha Hay gave remarkable performances. Piotr Lempa was an effectively humane Sarastro, and Stuart Haycock and Johnny Herford also made a positive impression as Monostatos and Speaker, respectively.

Michael Rosewell had not conducted many of the performances on tour, but from the start of the overture his account was beautifully paced - unusually fleet-footed, but always comfortable for the singers. The designs still worked well, especially the huge number of trapdoors and the lampshade images. The only drawback in direction was the slighltly messy chorus activity during the overture, and the conga they formed to represent the serpent, that struggled to make its way round the tiers of the stage. One undoubted success was the translation used - Jeremy Sams has provided a delightful text, both in song and dialogue, and full of wit.

Performance Cast

Tamino a Prince

Ashley Catling

First Lady in attendance on the Queen

Lorna Bridge

Second Lady in attendance on the Queen

Amy J Payne

Third Lady in attendance on the Queen

Susan Moore

Papageno a bird-catcher

Wyn Pencarreg

Queen of Night

Samantha Hay

Monostatos a servant in the Temple

Stuart Haycock

Pamina daughter of the Queen of Night

Anna Patalong

First Boy

Abigail Kelly

Second Boy

Emily-Jane Thomas

Third Boy

Laura Kelly

Speaker at the Temple

Johnny Herford

Sarastro High Priest of Isis and Osiris

Piotr Lempa

Second Priest

Simon Gfeller

Papagena disguised as an old woman

Caryl Hughes

First Armed Man

Adam Tunnicliffe

Second Armed Man

Maciek O'Shea

Performance DatesZauberflöte 2014

Map List

Perth Concert Hall | Perth

22 May, 19.30

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