Last night I ventured out into the freezing cold night to attend my first ever opera for adults. I have been to two childrens' operas this year - NI Opera's Noye's Fludde and Scottish Opera's Elephant Angel. You can read what I thought about them here: Noye's Fludde and here: The Elephant Angel.
I thought it was about time I tried an adult opera. I chose The Magic Flute for a few reasons. It was produced by Scottish Opera whose last production I had seen, it was sung in English and it had dialogue as well as singing (I now know this to be Singspiel style). I also noted an 'Opera Unwrapped' event the night before which made the production even more accessible to me.
Opera Unwrapped is a great tactic for bringing in new attenders. Opera is an artform that is stereotyped as foreign, elitist and for the wealthy. Given this stereotype, it can be intimidating attending an opera for the first time. This informal event is a great idea and it really added to my understanding and enjoyment of the full production.
The story is about a young prince who is asked to rescue the Queen of the Night's daughter who has been abducted. Other themes are also clear; religion, the path to enlightenment, masonic ritual and the number 3, but I engaged most with the magical love story.
I have to say the fabulous set and costumes blew me away. Opera really does do it bigger, better, brasher and bolder. The beautiful industrial serpent was stunning. When I think of how long it must have taken to make him, I only wish he could have been kept on stage longer. The set itself was in Victoriana steampunk style. Industrial looking with wheels and cogs, you'd be forgiven for thinking the whole tale took place inside a watch. I loved the scientific feel of the set, the dual levels of the set allowing bearded men in the gallery to look down on the action below, just like the old operating theatres where students looked down on the surgeon at work. The chorus included nurses, and men with top hats with head lamps in them, reminiscent of both coal miners and scientists.
As a non opera goer and a terrible singer I can't say anything technical about the singing except to say that it all sounded perfect to me. Acting wise however, I did have my favourites. Papageno, clearly the star of the show gave an assured performance, his character driving the energy of a lot of the scenes. His timing was impeccable and I really enjoyed the ever present twinkle in his eye. The three Ladies were very entertaining, given playful direction for some of the wittiest scenes. The Queen of the Night's costume was stunning. I thought Mari Moriya really lived up to the drama of the character using her costume and body shape to accent the meaning of her words. Of course a special mention must go to the orchestra, their beautiful understated accompaniment accentuating the larger than life characters on the stage.
As a mix of pantomime, theatre, opera and musical theatre this production really caught my attention. As a lover of epic fiction, ancient mythology, science fiction and fantasy, fairytales and polished production values, this opera really spoke to my love of fantastical adventures.
It may have been the last night of the tour for this production, but for me it's the start of a long and epic romance with opera.