ENO: Magic Flute

Mozart: Magic Flute
English National Opera
The Coliseum, 2 April 2019

Sometimes an opera production just needs to grow on you. This is the case for the most recent ENO production of Magic Flute, directed by Simon McBurney, which has returned for its third run since opening in 2013.  Is was then the first new ENO production of The Magic Flute for around 25 years, and replaced Nicholas Hytner’s much-loved if rather traditional take. My review of the opening of McBurney’s version commented that: “In contrast to the previous production, this Magic Flute is dark, mysterious and more than a little weird. A flood of ideas drenched the stage, aided by a commentator sitting in a box in the corner, chalking up comments onto a large video screen. But there seems, at least to me, on first sight, little coherence to link it all together. Masonic references are played down, but the element of a cult is still stressed through colour-coded camps in conflict . . . It may well be that, in 25 years time, I will miss this production.  But, in the meantime, it will certainly take me some time to get used to it”. Continue reading

ENO: The Magic Flute

Mozart: The Magic Flute
English National Opera
The Coliseum.  19 February 2016

What a different three years makes! I was rather dismissive of the first run of Simon McBurney’s 2013 new production of The Magic Flute, together with his theatre company Complicite in partnership with Netherlands Opera and Aix-en-Provence.  This was the first new ENO production of The Magic Flute for around 25 years, and replaced Nicholas Hytner’s much-loved, if rather traditional take. My review of the opening of McBurney’s version included “In contrast to the previous production, this Magic Flute is dark, mysterious and more than a little weird. A flood of ideas drenched the stage, aided by a commentator sitting in a box in the corner, chalking up comments onto a large video screen. But there seems, at least to me, on first sight, little coherence to link it all together. Masonic references are played down, but the element of cult is still stressed through colour-coded camps in conflict . . . It may well be that, in 25 years time, I will miss this production.  But, in the meantime, it will certainly take me some time to get used to it”.

Well, having now seen it for a second time, with revival director Josie Daxter (also from Complicite) and a new conductor, ENO’s new music director Mark Wigglesworth, and with some tweaking to the staging, I am happy to admit that I was bowled over by it. A radical take on the well-known, if little-understood plot, the Continue reading

Wind in Basingstoke

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment brought their programme of music for winds to Basingstoke’s Anvil, the day after their performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (6 Feb).  Under the banner of the OAE’s ‘Flying the Flag’ series, they focussed on central Europe and Bohemia, with Mozart and his little-known friend Josef Mysliveček, as well as the later Bohemian composer Josef Triebensee, who arranged movements of Don Giovanni for the Prince of Lichenstein’s harmonie wind band around 1790.  The evening opened with Mozart’s monumental so-called ‘Gran Partita’ (Serenade No 10 for 13 wind instruments); nearly an hour of music of the most extraordinary intensity, and given an exceptional performance by the OAE players.  I particularly liked the way that they slightly extended some key rests, adding to the air of suspense.  Josef Mysliveček met the young Mozart in Bologna, and was an early influence despite their later falling out.  The composer of some 29 operas and 55 Symphonies, the jolly little Wind Octet No.2 in E flat (discovered not so long ago in a pile of manuscripts in the Black Forest) was probably not the finest work to display his talents, but the OAE (in the more traditional wind band grouping of 8 players) bought out his humour of his writing, not least in one little passage where a oboe scale was finished off, after a slight pause, by the second oboe.  The choice of Triebensee’s arrangement of Don Giovanni was apt, as the opera itself includes an on-stage wind band playing an arrangement of Mozart’s own Figaro – Mozart’s dig at the bourgeoisie habit of background music.  A fine oboist himself, Triebensee played the tricky second oboe part in the first performance of The Magic Flute, and makes much of the oboe in his arrangements, generally of soprano arias.  Although lacking a vocal line, his arrangements are clever reinterpretations of Mozart’s originals, and formed a light-hearted end to what had possible been a rather heavy evening for Basingstoke’s concert goers.

[https://andrewbensonwilson.org/2015/03/30/wind-in-basingstoke-6-feb-2015/]