ENO CONJURES UP MORE MAGIC


We review the first night of the favourite Mozart’s “the Magic Flute” at the London Coliseum.

Ever since my days at University and falling in love with the Magic Flute even as a teenager – Mozart Opera has always held a special place in my heart. In the same way that “relationships” need constant adjustment and spark – so the magic of ENO is its re-interpretation, at every level, of the Operas that it performs.

This was my second viewing of this original production. But not for my two ladies who sat next to me. This was their first ever opera performance. They chose the right topic and evening.

This performance was sharp, very well constructed, the classic ENO minimalist approach of letting the performers take you by the hand on the journey, the mix and almost conversations of orchestra and protagonists, and particularly principal flautist Claire Wickes wandering into the stage in dialogue with Papegeno.

The sudden-ness of the orchestra kicking into life as we start with full lights on in the auditorium – to grab our attention, and the humour of the Chaplin-like screen writing, tells us everything we need to know. This is no classical Mozart. This is Mozart made modern.

You can only do this, of course, if you have the professional immaculate singing. ENO excels at the Chorus, the groups of singers. And yet this was the area that for me was the least convincing this time around. It took a while for the Three Ladies to get into gear – but this is to be picky. I loved Lucy Crowe as Pamina, and Rowan Pierce later on as Papagena is always funny and spot on – she gave a brief synopsis of the approach when she sang just a few months ago at the ENO Celebration Evening.

ENO is always very clever and relaxed when it does Mozart. This “Magic Flute” is up there in competition with its staging and performance of “Cosi Fan Tutte “ a couple of years ago.

It is a performance to enjoy as an old friend. But it is also for newcomers. One of the key aims of ENO is to widen the approach to a wider audience. My ladies sitting next to me, were not disappointed.

A FANTASTIC BUZZ AT ENO’S LATEST “MARRIAGE OF FIGARO”!

We review the latest Figaro production at the London Coliseum

Mozart operas at ENO always have fantastic and clever beginnings. If the word “tangential “ applies to probably every ENO production and approach, then last night’s Figaro did not disappoint.

The imagery of a bumble bee trapped inside a harpsichord syncing into the rapid overture, sets the scene, and with a driving orchestra and some standout ensemble and solo performances, especially from Rhian Lois, making her role debut as Susanna, this was a performance that whilst taking just a little time to really get going – absolutely left its audience spellbound. I have always said that, for newcomers to opera, make sure you go to an ENO Mozart performance – then this production (and it was the second time I have seen it) – came alive. You got to go.

So why a difference? You could argue that Figaro of all operas, is the easiest to get along with. Nobody does a bad Figaro. And that misses the point, because yes indeed you can do a boring Figaro. The real trick is to engage with the audience, and this takes subtlety, exquisite direction, timing of humour and of music and dramatic art – all of which this performance has in spades. And it plays to mature opera-goers as well as newbies; my colleagues alongside me were humming along to the melodies, that everyone knows – but we all wanted to hear. The timing particularly of Lucy Crowe, debuting as the Countess, excelled in her “dove sono i bei momenti” aria.

What is there to love?

Sure, the visual complexity of the revolving stage creates the confusion and the rapid movement of players as the drama speeds along, compounds that – but the secret sauce of this production is the speed of the orchestra, that forces the pace.

This in turn forces the key protagonists, particularly in the close ensembles, to be rock solid in timing and harmony – and they belt out their parts. Each player has a point to make. nobody takes any prisoners in this performance but surprisingly, the performance is actually funny! I found myself LOL at the absurdity of it all, and how many times have I seen this opera?

Whilst every singer/performer absolutely does justice to their respective roles – the standout performance that is the glue that links the others – has to be Rhian Lois who has nothing to fear in commanding the big Coliseum stage. Rhian is a Harewood Artist and she reminds me of Mary Bevan in her role in Cosi Fan Tutte.

The ENO bars are closed by the time the performance finished, which is a pity. I took a glass of wine at the adjacent St Martins Hotel hidden gin bar. At times like this, you need to raise your glass.