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Review: The Magic Flute @ Lichfield Cathedral

I’ve only seen ever the Magic Flute once before, Glyndebourne on tour with magnificent production values, a full-sized orchestra and an overall grand tone as was to be expected. But this new Lichfield Festival production was far, far better.

Mozart wrote for everyone, not just the toffs – the first production of the Magic Flute was given in a Viennese theatre for a crowd of ordinary punters.

And fittingly this pared-down production (two pianos and a narrator instead of a full sized orchestra) caught the sheer joie de vivre and fun of this classic comedy on a hot summer’s night.

The confusingly mythological nature of the storyline is claimed to be filled with references to Freemasonry and esoteric Egyptian cults, but here the emphasis as befits a summer festival was on the comic complications of a tale in which love and desire dominate the universal human condition.

Marvellously urbane narrator Guy Henry guided us through the complicated and increasingly preposterous plot with a sophisticated twinkle that slyly sent up the exotic storyline while pianists Anthony Kraus and Ian Ryan manfully shouldered playing the entire score on a single piano!

But without the distractions of decoration and scenery and aided only by some clever lighting the quality of the performers’ acting and singing quite rightly were brought fully to the fore.

Alexander Sprague as the spiritual adventurer Tamino who is forced to undergo a series of increasingly extreme ordeals gave a charmingly modest twist to his leading role, while the beautiful Anna Dennis as Pamina his destined lover was simply sublime.

Birmingham Conservatoire graduate Jonathan Gunthorpe stole the show as Papageno the comic bird-charmer making him a simple and charming child with touchingly vulnerable comic reactions. Samantha Hay was literally thrilling as the terrifyingly grand Queen of the Night.

Add in lots of lovely ladies, all marvellous actresses, an imposing High Priest in Richard Wiegold and Adrian Thompson’s delightful tour de force as the comic Monostatos and you have a sure fire hit on your hands.

This newly-commissioned Lichfield Festival production made a marvellous debut for new Festival Director Sonia Stevenson sending us out into the warm evening uplifted and excited.


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