The Magic Flute

Elder Conservatorium of Music. Scott Theatre. 2 Oct 2012

Before the show, people I knew were asking me, “What brings you here?” or “What are you doing here?”  I later realised that most the crowd were friends and relies of the Elder Conservatorium of Music and that maybe others don’t much attend, which is a shame, because this is such a reasonably priced way of seeing an opera.

First I must say that The Magic Flute is a pretty ordinary opera.  Mozart wrote it late in his short and creative life and was likely reaching out to his Masonic buddies.  There are plenty of drawn out formalities - perhaps referential Masonic ritual, but it only reminded me of “Eyes Wide Shut,” except in this show, the women are dressed from the chin down, so it’s not that kind of ritual.  Indeed, director Richard Trevaskis in his program notes opines that The Magic Flute is a morality tale – a tussle between the embodiment of power used wisely and a Queen of the night.  There are some Herculean tasks our hero must accomplish, like keeping his mouth shut, but even the comic value was missing.  This production is thoughtfully performed in Stephen Fry’s English revealing painful repetitions of verse that are less obvious in a language I’m not conversant in. 

There wasn’t much to look at either (David Lampard – design).  The costumes resembled uniforms worn by some planetary inhabitants in a Star Trek TV episode.  The Three Ladies looked like triffids with drag eye makeup and the Three Boys resembled French Canadian lumberjacks.  Lampard’s set comprised of acutely angled and orderly risers were the best solution to getting a larger number of people seen by the audience.  Decorated as they were with an arcane pattern of line-joined glow-in-the-dark dots, they gave the show a weird science fiction feel.  A variation of the crescent moon he used in G&S Society's Iolanthe earlier this year rose once again.  The design was abjectly devoid of theme.

Thank goodness for the Elder Conservatorium voice students, chorus and Carl Crossin’s orchestra from the school.  Trevaskis no doubt had his hands too full directing traffic on stage to spend time adding gloss to the performances.  Nonetheless, some diamonds do sparkle no matter what.  Sharon Turley as the Queen of the Night gave an animated version of the Ah…Ah…Ah aria and garnered the greatest applause.  Bravo!  Mark Oakley is a towering stage presence.  With dual degrees underway in accounting and instrumental music, he’ll be singing like Teddy Tahu Rhodes and counting his money as well.  Karina Jay and Branko Lovrinov have lovely voices but made a most ordinary suburban coupling as the main love interest.  Nick Coxhill gave an amusing performance as Papageno and Matthew Lykos evoked genuine empathy with his complex and nuanced Monostatos.  The chorus work was well drilled and sounded heavenly.

I do enjoy my second row centre season’s tickets seats at State Opera, which by the way, I pay for, as I don’t review opera, and you might say, thank goodness.  I loved watching this energetic and accomplished young talent and musing who I will see, one day, leading in the big tent.

David Grybowski

When: 2 to 6 Oct
Where: Elder Conservatorium
Bookings: music.adelaide.edu.au/elderhall/concerts/evenings