This review was written for the Londonist
Featuring one of opera’s most famous arias, Mozart’s last singspiel offers a heady blend of magic, morality and masonry. David McVicar’s production returns to the Royal Opera House this spring for a run dedicated to the memory of the late Sir Colin Davis. It’s comic, grand and glittering, with great performances all round and a looming set that looks like it’s made of marble and is cast in a mystical kind of light.
As sweet as the lovers are, the highlights are of course the misguided Queen of the Night and the comic folk hero Papageno, who favours wine and women over wisdom. Flawed characters are always more entertaining and here are given the most memorable tunes.
The queen and her three ladies are stunning. Their hair is scraped back into tight peaks, revealing white dome heads with seriously receded hairlines, and their long dresses sparkle midnight black and blue. Their impressive high-pitched voices and mischievous vengefulness are in welcome contrast to the earnest ‘Initiates’.
Visually, the production design (by John Macfarlane) is simple but heavy with a symbolism that adds to both the humour and seriousness of the story. There are glowing globes and solar systems, a huge crescent moon and an enormous golden sun, a massive staring eye, a great old tree and towering columns, but also an over-sized rod puppet serpent, a comedy bird-on-a-stick and a flying wheelbarrow. And, of course, a magic flute.
The run is short and perhaps unsurprisingly sold out but 67 tickets are on offer from 10am on the day of each performance if you visit the box office in person, and returns are sold over the phone. See the Royal Opera House website for more info. It plays on selected days until 9 May and is sung in German with English surtitles. Ticket prices vary wildly depending where you sit.