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The Magic Flute

The Magic Flute at Festival Theatre. Photo: Iko Freese The Magic Flute at Festival Theatre. Photo: Iko Freese
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Driven with precision from the pit and inspiration from the stage, 1927 and Barrie Kosky’s silent-movie take on The Magic Flute for Komische Oper Berlin at the EIF is a dazzling delight which, if anything, is in danger of overrunning with visual ideas.

Stripping out all the spoken dialogue and replacing it with typographically appropriate captions, the whole opera takes place in front of a big white screen, onto which animations of various provenances and styles are projected. The singers are largely static – at least in placement – appearing from revolving doors high up the screen or at stage level.

Being static helps create strong and vibrant vocal performances. Olga Pudova, with only her face visible as a screen-filling arachnid Queen of the Night, nails the coloratura. A bobbed Maureen McKay is little-girl-lost Pamina. Trapped amidst darkly grotesque 1920s-style depictions of terror, she is suitably clear, pure and resonant of tone. Allan Clayton’s Tamino is sturdy and upright, as he should be.

Dominik Koninger’s Papageno is the standout performance, however. Drawing on Buster Keaton for inspiration, and followed everywhere by a spiky black cat, his interaction with the surrounding graphics is faultless and, while hilarious, also enlightening.

Paul Barritt’s animations allow the production to travel into uncharted territory – Pamina is swallowed by the dragon, for example. But it also allows directors Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky to comment on the dialogue and add greater textures of meaning – at least to the character interaction. An intriguing, often humorous, production which opens up the work to new audiences and demands repeated viewing – without having anything particularly profound to say.

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The Magic Flute as silent movie, marrying many styles and eras with masterfully delivered music