Scottish Opera revive their steam-powered Flute... It is well-oiled!
Updated: Jul 14, 2019
Last night saw Scottish Opera revive a much-acclaimed 2012 production of Mozart's The Magic Flute originally directed by Sir Thomas Allen, transporting Flute to a steam-punky world inspired by Glasgow itself, the industry of the city, the enlightenment period and Victorian futurism. The production is a gleaming spectacle of impressive golden structures, cascading industrial light bulbs, glowing costumes and eccentric pantomime-esque audience engagement.
All cast members generally impressed, though Gemma Summerfield and Julia Sitkovetsky shone above them all vocally, commanding powerful yet agile instruments in the roles of Pamina and The Queen of the Night respectively. Richard Burkhard is a hilariously charismatic Papageno whose terrible jokes, popular culture references (yes, even Coronation Street gets a mention!) and fourth-wall bashing audience addresses make for entertainment any regular pantomime-goer will recognise - especially those who count themselves as big Chuckle Brother fans! First, Second and Third Boy's pitching may be a little shaking at times but this is not at all grating and if anything only adds to the eccentricity of the performance. Similarly, one cannot not forget the spectacular sound-image produced by the Chorus of The Magic Flute either, which is shown with enormous force towards the closing bars of the opera. All of this makes for a night out that anyone new to the art form will find entirely unique to the opera house.
"A gleaming spectacle of impressive golden structures...".
The decision to perform in English seems to be the right one with the addition of a series of laughter-provoking puns and phonetic mix-ups, however all of this is despite the occasional
clumsiness of the translation's marriage to the music. At times this clumsiness even sort to make the text as unclear to an English-speaking audience as the original German, though this is soon forgotten amid any number of Papageno's witty moments.
In the pit, conductor Tobias Ringborg's passion for the composition is in plain sight as he chooses to conduct without a baton, instead sculpting the sound with his bare hands! It does help however that he commands such an obedient and responsive orchestra, who themselves cannot resist a glimpse of the on-stage eccentricities during their periods of rest.
Mark Jonathan's lighting has all the tropes of classic dramatic theatre with stroboscopic lamps and an impressive range of colours projected through every nook and cranny on-stage - a fine spectacle. Adding to the effect then are Simon Higlett's extraordinary range of props including a mechanical life-like robot, luminescent monsters painted onto large umbrellas and propellers wore by the First, Second and Third Boys as they descend from above.
The absurdist comedy present in Flute is so elegantly complemented here by the blatant absurdity of this production that it will be wholesomely enjoyed by all, especially those new to opera.
Check out some more incredible production pictures below! Credit © James Glossop