Take your seats, fasten your metaphorical belts, and hold tight for this pre-Christmas extravaganza!
You might get confused by the hotchpotch of cultural references in the libretto, mixing themes of the Illuminati/Age of Enlightenment, freemasonry and Egyptian Gods, with underlining philosophical elements of virtue, courage, manliness, triumph over adversity and ultimately, the power of music.
Don’t let that distract you from the sheer pleasure of Mozart’s brilliant orchestration and some terrific fun amidst all the operatic drama of this hugely popular work of his.
There is new and interesting casting in this 2019 David McVicar production: British tenor Benjamin Hulett as Tamino, French-Danish soprano Elsa Dreisig as Pamina, Finnish soprano Tuuli Takala as Queen of the Night, Vito Priante as Papageno, Yaritza Veliz as Papagena, Rodell Rosel as Monostatos and Andreas Bauer Kanabas as Zarastro.
Special mention should be made to the “Three Wise Boys” (Richard Wolfson, Joshua Abrams and Willam James) who carried the attempted suicide scenes of Pamina and Papageno with great aplomb and to The Three Ladies who gave some strong performances throughout.
As is the case with opera productions in general, the sense of high drama was enhanced by John Macfarlane’s sumptuously theatrical stage and by the jaw-dropping costumes, all of which contributed nicely to the mystery of the all-over-the-place narrative.
The ROH orchestra is as usual superb, directed this time by Leo Hussain (who seems to occasionally go out of synch with soloists).
Vito Priante’s Papageno is hugely relatable to the audience and his warm, generous baritone, as well as engaging performance, elicited the greatest applause of the night in a packed house.
Similarly, Yaritza Veliz’s Papagena was plucky, fun, and performed an outstanding and uplifting final duet with Papageno/ Priante.
Benjamin Hulett as Tamino acquits himself rather well, both in terms of acting and singing, with some superbly executed arias and duets.
The slightly frozen performance of Tuuli Takala was largely compensated by her vast range and effortless highs.
Andreas Bauer Kanabas as Zarastro is darkly portentous and a well-cast bass, while Filipino tenor Rodell Rosel’s Monostatos gives some poignant performances as the fallen star among the firmament of virtuous Illuminati.
All come together in the final act to participate in a characteristic Mozart grand and uplifting finale with a magnificent chorus.