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.