Sunday, July 22, 2012

COW: The Magic Flute, redux

Oh, dear.

To be fair, this production was not helped by the fact that I saw the 110 minute Julie Taymor production of this by the Australian Opera back in February, and also by the fact that several of the cast had clearly been devastated by what I am going to call for my own amusement The Magic Flu.  For example, Stephanie McAlister's top notes were MIA, whereas I know she's got 'em, and the rest of the notes were gorgeous - on the plus side, her evident annoyance helped her Queen of the Night look suitably cranky when singing of death and destruction.  Gerald Ninnes, too, had to mime while another singer filled in from the pit.  So there were certainly a few voices not quite up to scratch.

On the night I saw this, Dave Smith, as Tamino, sang well, but was inexplicably clad in a set of gaberdine suit trousers  topped by a puffy-sleeved blue & gold brocade standard issue prince-type jacket. It looked quite odd.  He sang very well, but I really miss the days when he used to act, as well.  His Pamina looked like a young Joan Sutherland but didn't quite have the voice to match. 

Chris McNee, as Papageno, was enormous fun, as always, singing lovely baritone rather than his usual lovely bass; his Papagena was as cute as a button and a delightful comic actress, but badly short of the mark on vocals. The other standout acting was from Leon Kavcic as Monostatos.

Peter Smith (the Speaker) and Gerard Atkinson (Sarastro) were solid vocally; and assorted Priests, Ladies, Genii, and Armed Guards acquitted themselves reasonably enough, but this was way too ambitious a piece for most of the cast. This is, of course, possibly the looniest plot in opera (I'd say definitely, but there's "Lindy" to think of), and I couldn't help noticing that the AO production was literally half the running time, while losing nothing at all of any value.  I really believe David Reedy would do better to focus on shorter and easier pieces while some of his proteges are still in grooming stage.

The orchestra was very sound, and substantial, the much maligned light-fittings were gorgeous, but possibly not so gorgeous as to be worth the distraction to singers who had to visibly duck and weave so as not to crack their heads.  Christine Pawlicki's costumes were particularly good (esp the Papageni), even if we recognised some recycled Mikado outfits, and wondered where Dave's correct pants were.  (I like to think he turned up to work next day in a suit jacket paired with royal blue britches and gold tights.)

And it was nice to have my first outing to the Lyneham High School Theatre. It's not a bad space, although the seats are plastic and clearly designed for more resilient and springy adolescent posteriors (of particular relevance during a three hour show).  The schmoozing space is deplorable - but I suppose I can't really expect a High School to install a full bar...

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