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The Magic Flute review at Theatre Royal, Glasgow – ‘a sparkling steampunk staging’

Music hall informs the tone of Scottish Opera’s 2012 production of The Magic Flute. Thomas Allen’s production, using Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s English translation, turns it into a sparkling comedy.

Allen brings Richard Burkhard’s loquacious Papageno to the fore. He takes on a puppet-master role during the overture when he seeks out Peter Gijsbertsen, planted in the audience, and brings him on stage to assume the role of Tamino.

Burkhard’s banter with the audience and easy presence on stage overcome the over-wordy elements of the translation and helps draw the attention away from the more misogynistic and antiquated sexual politics of the Masonic elements of the plot.

Gemma Summerfield’s Pamina carries the emotional weight of the production, particularly in her great second half aria. James Creswell’s beautifully sung Sarastro is calm to the point of being emotion-free in his pontifications on the role of women.

Designer Simon Higlett gives the production a steampunk aesthetic, with ornate cast-iron fittings, working robotic devices and plenty of internal lighting in the costumes. The versatile set is built like a moveable anatomy theatre, on which enlightened men observe the stage from above, while their servants help fuel the action from below.

There is a splendid sensuality about the three Ladies of the Night, but their mischievousness is not matched by Julia Sitkovetsky’s Queen of the Night whose coloratura is precise, but feels thin. Tobias Ringborg’s pleasingly pacy conducting gets a lightness of tone from the orchestra that helps make the whole thing shine.

Verdict
Thomas Allen's sparkling steampunk staging of Mozart's opera

Production Information

Production
The Magic Flute
Venue
Theatre Royal
City
Glasgow
Starts
May 4, 2019
Ends
May 18, 2019
Press night
May 9, 2019
Translation
Kit Hesketh-Harvey
Composer
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Director
Thomas Allen
Set
Simon Higlett
Lighting
Mark Jonathan
Costume
Simon Higlett
Stage manager
John Duncan
Cast includes
Peter Gijsbertsen, Richard Burkhard, Gemma Summerfield, Julia Sitkovetsky, James Creswell, Jeni Bern
Producer
Scottish Opera
Running time
2hrs 55mins