Pacific Opera Victoria
Dates & Venue February 16, 18, 24, 2017 at 8:00pm & February 22 at 7pm; & February 26 at 2:30pm) | The Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton St., Victoria
Director Oriol Thomas Conductor Timothy Vernon Set Design Patricia Ruel Costume Design Laurence Mongeau Lighting Design Eric Champoux Choreography Jacques Lemay Chorus Master Giuseppe Pietraroia Stage Manager Sara Robb
Tamino Adam Luther Pamina Simone Osborne Papageno Justin Welsh Queen of the Night Sharleen Joynt Monostatos Kevin Myers The Speaker Bruce Kelly Sarastro Jeremy Bowes
Sung in German with English dialogue and surtitles
Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson
The Magic Flute can be an uncomfortable hybrid of fairy tale, hero’s quest, bildungsroman and Masonic ritual.
Pacific Opera have done a satisfying job of integrating this uneasy patchwork into a balanced, connected whole by concentrating more on the profound questions the opera asks than on its theatricality. An abstract set of shifting mirrored pyramids, stylized costumes and imaginative props, underpinned by careful lighting provides backdrop, location or metaphor as required. The mirrors reflect the underlying theme that the world is not always what it seems: the ‘wronged’ Queen of the Night is soon revealed as ambitious for power. Nevertheless her gifts, the magic flute, the bells and the guiding spirits are true ones. Even in the Priesthood of the Sun, the ‘good’ Sarastro employs slaves and the unequivocally wicked Monostatos.
Costumes reflect these complications, with the Queen of the Night (Sharleen Joynt) contrarily dressed in white with a hooped black fretwork. The elegant Jeremy Bowes as Sarastro looked equally stunning in an exotic, long, pleated kilt with a sun-gold sash set off with a jacket reminiscent of the 18th century while The Speaker (an avuncular Bruce Kelly) was dressed in black, knife-pleated kilt and tunic. Not all the costumes were as successful. Pamina (Simone Osborne) was dressed in a nondescript short white dress which did nothing to flatter. In providing an oriental-ish tunic for Tamino (Adam Luther) costume designer Laurence Mongeau possibly took a cue from Schikaneder’s original notes but that Wardrobe department surely held something brighter. Papageno’s (Justin Welsh) russet jacket was no more than serviceable while the long scarlet ribbons dripping from the fingers of Monostatos (Kevin Myers) and his henchmen certainly added colour. A menagerie of birds, both origami and costumed supernumeraries, were weird and delightful.
But to the music. Simone Osborne was a delight as Pamina rising well above her two-dimensional role. She was every inch a princess, elegant and kind, independent and brave. Her warm and melodious soprano was rich with true emotion, especially in the heart-rending 'Ach, ich fühl's', her lively duets with Papageno charming.
Adam Luther as Tamino was a little stiff and unvaried in his acting but with plenty of flexibility and nuance in his voice. Papageno and Monostatos, the good and the wicked-hearted, were splendid, free and enthusiastic in their acting and vocally energetic and full of personality
Contrasting Dark with Light, the final note in Sarastro’s profound hymn to Isis and Osiris setsa very low register, calm and collected, 4 octaves below the Queen of the Night’s stratospheric, agitated high F. Joynt’s scintillating coloratura sent sparks through' Der Hölle Rache' while she invested the dramatic 'O zittre nicht' with affecting pathos. Jeremy Bowes’ opposing unaffected and sonorous bass was coolly noble.
The three spirits (Daniel Yaxley, Jack Wilson, Cameron Little) were (sensibly) miked and sang very well. The three ladies (Betty Wayne Allison, Charlotte Burrage, Megan Latham) introduced a touch of light comedy as they ogled an unconsious Tamino but they soon became more serious henchwomen. The chorus were formidable priests.
The orchestra was superb, particularly the gravitas of the trombones, the elegance of the flute-playing, and the crispness of a lively celeste, under Timothy Vernon’s sensitive and particular baton.
© 2017 Elizabeth Paterson