The Magic Flute makes for a charming night at the opera
Eighteenth-century romance was top of the bill at the Abu Dhabi Festival on Saturday night.
After a week of straight musical performances and piano recitals, the Emirates Palace Auditorium hosted the first of two operatic theatre productions of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Presented by the Budapest Festival Orchestra and conducted by Iván Fischer, this Arab- world premiere managed to maintain the charm throughout, despite the epic three-hour running time.
Set in a mythical land, The Magic Flute begins when the love-struck prince Tamino is tasked by the ill-intentioned Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from the clutches of the high priest, Sarastro.
What follows is a journey during which Tamino questions his motives and faith, until he eventually arrives at a new-found clarity.
While the premise is relatively straightforward, there is a lot going on if you scratch underneath The Magic Flute’s shiny surface.
In addition to the classic romantic plot and the comedic touches – provided by the bird catcher and Tamino’s irascible side kick, Papageno – The Magic Flute also meditates on issues ranging from friendship and faith to ways in which we can build a common humanity.
Fischer presented the tale in an engaging manner, with Tamino, Papageno and Pamino played by two actors, one responsible for the dialogue while the other took over the singing.
The production made full use of the auditorium’s space – in addition to the rather snug orchestra pit directly beneath the stage, some of the actors appeared from the aisles and freely walked around the floor chatting to
each other – a nifty move as it made the auditorium feel like an interactive performance space.
With The Magic Flute’s variety of all-encompassing themes, Fischer kept his interpretation of the opera fairly straight.
While there was none of the juvenile slapstick favoured by many other popular productions (and which has made it a favourite of high-school drama courses), the humour remained in plentiful supply.
Hanno Muller-Brachman was a marvel in the operatic role of Papageno. Through his deep baritone and gregarious presence he managed to channel his character’s bittersweet nature.
Nuria Rial’s singing of Pamina was also solid – however, her passionate and heavy vocals didn’t really transition very well with her acting partner, who presented the princess as somewhat immature and ditsy.
The star of the show, however, was Mandy Fredrich as the raging Queen of the Night. The German was an absolute powerhouse on stage, with her perfect phrasing and crystalline vocals that had you wishing the orchestra would extend her scenes.
With this being the first performance of the show at the venue, a few technical issues reared their ugly heads. The chief problem was a few actors failed to attach their microphones securely enough, causing a few dialogue scenes to suffer.
This will surely be rectified for tonight’s second and final performance, which is highly recommended as a very worthwhile treat for those looking for a charming night at the opera.
The Magic Flute, performed by the Budapest Festival Orchestra, is at Emirates Palace on Monday, March 30 at 8pm. Tickets start at Dh125 from www.timeouttickets.com
Updated: March 29, 2015 04:00 AM