Text or shortcode
Text or shortcode

Classical music and more, 24/7

A delightful Magic Flute at Thaxted

A delightful Magic Flute at Thaxted
A delightful Magic Flute at Thaxted
A delightful Magic Flute at Thaxted

Wild Arts does it again …

Mozart Die Zauberflöte (sung in English, translated by Jeremy Sams, abridged). Cast; Orchestra / Orlando Jopling (conductor). Thaxted Parish Church, 30.06.2024


Director – James Hurley 

Designer – Sophie Lincoln 


Pamina – Natasha Page 

Tamino – Richard Dowling 

The Queen of the Night – Luci Briginshaw 

Papageno – Gareth Brynmor John 

Papagena – Eleanor Sanderson-Nash 

Sarastro – Trevor Eliot Bowes 

Monostatos – Ben Thapa 

First Lady – Eleanor Oldfield 

Second Lady – Martha Joes 

Third Lady – Abbie Ward 

Speaker – Henry Wright 

Priest – Lachlan Craig 

The splendid production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore (sung as ‘The Elixir of Love’) by Wild Arts at Thaxted Parish Church last year as part of the Thaxted Festival was what drew me back this year for Magic Flute. You can find my review of the Donizetti at the Gramophone website here

A larger ensemble this year was onstage (it was a smaller group for the Donizetti, there with superbly crafted use of an accordion).. The two productions shared a propensity for high imagination, using limited space and props to maximal effect. There are cuts and tweaks in this Flute, but despite this the whole flowed, and Wild Arts is hardly the first to re-order Mozart (Beecham famously did for his HMV recording of Entführung, for example). So it is that the Three Ladies take on some of the Boys’ music, and the start of act 2 is redistributed so the Queen of the NIght’s second aria precedes the Quintet (which allows for a suggestion of a connection between the Ladies and Pamina).

Interestingly, there are parallels here between James Hurley’s inventive staging (and Wild Arts’ work in general) and that of Stephen Langridge’s Gothenburg Ring: Both are ecologically aware. Wlld Arts describes the set for Flute simply as ‘a blue mat, eight stools, and a handful of LED strips’; the characters are costumed with recycled and reused materials. But the clue is in the opera’s title, Zauberflöte: Wild Arts makes magic happen. It’s not only Mozart’s flute that enchants, but the combination of youthful talent, a superb group of talented professional instrumentalists, a fine conduor and an imaginative director in James Hurley, ably supported via Sophie Lincoln’s colourful designs. 

The Thaxted/Gothenburg parallels do not end with the environmental aspect though. At the opening of the Mozart, during the Overture, we see the Queen of the Night rending the Sun Disc in two; a similar fatal shattering occurs in the Ring, leaving fractured outlines – human, there – across the stage. It is immediately clear Mozart’s world is that of juxtapositions and oppositions, of light and dark, of organised belief against more human emotion. It is in Mozart the journey to the LIght that is paramount, and each production faces the dilemma of how to skew the emphasis between the fairy tale (and even the comedic) and the deep spirituality of Freemasonry. If the Masonic element was necessarily subdued here (the trials would have been, well, a trial to stage in a parish church), this production remains true to the core values of Wild Arts: phenomenally inventive, relentlessly entertaining, and full of insight. 

The whole was, as with the Donizetti Elisir, beautifully conducted by Orlando Joplin (who also played the keyboard ‘bells’). The inventiveness of the orchestral reduction was the source of many a delight. First violin Sijie Chen, co-leader of the London Mozart Players, obviously had an inordinate amount to do and delivered with style and true tuning. The actual instrumentation used was strings (2:1;1;1), oboe, clarinet, basset horn, horn and bassoon. As far as the Overture was concerned, this redistribution had the most remarkable effect: this sounded like the perfect weekend afternoon Harmoniemusik!. 

There was much to admire in the strong cast. Soprano Natasha Page has a lovely, pure voice and was fully capable of projecting Pamina’s searing pain in the second act; her statement of ‘Tamino mine’ was truly touching. If Richard Dowling seemed initially to over-project in the Thaxted Church acoustic, he dd settle to deliver a most appealing, strong-voiced account.  

Cast in amongst princes and princesses plus a Queen of the Night and her dark entourage, the touchingly earthy and human figure of Papageno was superbly taken by strong baritone Gareth Brynmor John (a singer active at Welsh National Opera). The part requires huge character, and John’s clear stage presence and comedic flair enabled him to provide the requisite balance; his Papagena was Eleanor Sanderson-Nash, brilliantly comedic. Their voices meshed beautifully. With Trevor Eliot Bowes a resonaned and authoritative Sarastro (there are no fewer than three Sarastro’s in Wild Arts’ run), Ben Thapa a magnificent Monostatos (taking in every inch of the part’s opportunities) and superbly chosen smaller parts (the Three Ladies particularly impressive), that only leaves the infamous Queen of the Night. Luci Briginshaw has the range, she has the presence; and she presented a feisty Queen possessed of a terrific in alt register. 

Wild Arts continues to entertain and to stimulate in equal measure. This, surely, is what fringe opera is all about. I look forward to their offering next year … 

Future performances are as follows:

Owlpen Manor, Gloucestershire – 4 July

Malvern Theatre, Worcestershire – 5 July

Bletchington Park, Oxfordshire – 6 July

Deal Festival, Kent – 11 July

Childerley Hall, Cambridgeshire – 14 July

Heronsgate, Buckinghamshire – 21 July

Forde Abbey, Dorset – 25 July

Hever Castle, Kent – 3 August

Frinton-on-Sea Cricket Club – 6 August

Birmingham Rep Theatre – 5 September

Charterhouse, London – 14 September

Orangerie of the Sans Souci Palace, Potsdam, Germany – 19, 20, 21 September

Classical Explorer has covered Zauberflöte a couple of times before: in the guise of La flùte enchantée under Hervé Niquet at Versailles (in French), and a live performance from Covent Garden (the David McVicar production).

Go to Source article

Previous Article

Biz news: Top UK soprano shops boutique

Next Article

Dear Alma, Our new violist wears a hijab

You might be interested in …