I have a huge fondness for the Magic Flute, Mozart’s fantastical operatic quest, as it was the first opera I ever watched. Daisy Evans’ new production of the Magic Flute has clearly tried to do something a bit different and her production does have a chaotic youthful energy.
For me, the highpoint of the production was Trystan Llŷr Griffiths’ portrayal of Tamino, his voice, stage charisma and ability to convey real emotion cut through and was the most accessible and enjoyable of the production. Raven McMillon sang very well as Pamina, notwithstanding her somewhat inexplicable American accent and partnered Trystan’s Tamino well, she has a beautiful voice and managed to convey a sense of her character.
Trystan Llŷr Griffiths
The orchestra was excellent and lifted the production. Other cast members demonstrated energy and enthusiasm but at times seemed a bit underpowered and really struggled to cut through the production’s busyness. There was too much going on at all times. The dancers with the birds, the confusion of different sorts of costume, the clash with the set design and the constant presence of people on stage moving sets created an impression of chaos which spoke of disorganisation rather than perhaps the intended exuberance. It all came across as being confused about what it wanted to say. Too many ideas thrown at the canvas, and sadly none of them really gaining traction. The costumes gave us elements of The Handmaid’s Tale and the Hunger Games’ dystopian feel along with a bit of Buzz Lightyear and Flash Gordon. The three young ones had stepped out of the 5th Element and the geeks costuming was just plain odd. The sets were redolent of a 1980’s album cover. The design did not show any dichotomy between the two kingdoms of Night and Day, or even a synergy between them, if this was what we were meant to conclude.
Jonathan Lemalu and Raven McMillon
The confusion of ideas also permeated the updated libretto and new version of the story. I was aware that the director wanted to update the story, and this could have worked as the original story is a fantastic fable used as a vehicle for lush sets and its gorgeous music and I can see no issue for me with replacing one fable for another. However, the revised libretto was uneven, there was too much talking, particularly in the second half and it was not clear to me whether the story telling was meant to be ‘playing for laughs’ or whether we were meant to engage with the simple themes as serious fodder. Consequently, the tone veered in the second half towards a sort of ‘Bill and Ted – be excellent to each other’ vibe.
Overall, while I wanted to like the production for its youthful enthusiasm and for trying to do something different with an old favourite which can often be a bit safe and stale, I was frustrated by the mess of ideas none of which, for me, really landed. I will, however, look forward to hearing more from Trystan and Raven.
Main image: Llinos Haf Jones, Quirin de Lang, and Sophie Williams
Images Craig Fuller
At Wales Millennium Centre until March 17 then touring.