The Magic Flute

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

AS a narrative, it is a load of old toot, The Magic Flute, even by the standards of operatic storylines, with all its preoccupation with Masonic ritual and entrenched sexism. But Mozart’s glorious music assures its place in the repertoire, so an approach as pantomimic as Sir Thomas Allen’s in this revived Scottish Opera production from 2012, which the baritone-turned-director has returned to oversee, makes perfect sense.

It seems rather less in thrall to its steampunk aesthetic this time around, although Simon Higlett’s design is still an essential ingredient of its success, with a clearer eye on the vaudeville performance ingredients. That is most obviously there in Richard Burkhard’s Papageno, but also an essential ingredient of Peter Gijsbertsen’s fish-out-of-water Prince Tamino, and the burlesque-influenced three handmaidens to the Queen of the Night, Jeni Bern, Bethan Langford and Sioned Gwen Davies, who comprehensively steal the early scenes of the production.

The women also give the strongest vocal performances of this cast, Gemma Summerfield a lovely warm-toned Pamina, Julia Sitkovetsky deliciously precise in the show-stopping stratospherics of the Queen of the Night, and Sofia Troncoso delightful in her late cameo as Papagena. The difficulty with playing the full text, in Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s often witty but wordy English translation, is that these moments of musical richness can seem all too brief. The excellent chorus-work gives that side of the equation a healthy kick on before the curtain falls on Act 1 fortunately.

The Orchestra of Scottish Opera, in period band mode under conductor Tobias Ringborg, and performing in a raised pit in front the proscenium arch for this revival, was also on essentially fine form from that point of view. From my seat there were no issues of balance with the singers from the prominent positioning of the instrumentalists, just occasionally within the band itself.

As well that coherent sound, the story itself manages to make some sort of inoffensive sense in this staging, and it looks wonderful from start to finish. A grand night out that is also visiting Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, London and Belfast.