Get spellbound at Auckland Arts Festival’s The Magic Flute

Mozart’s The Magic Flute has been given its own magical makeover with this production by internationally-acclaimed opera company Komische Oper Berlin- co-directed by Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade. An innovative feast for the senses, this 1920’s style silent film come live performance is a must-see experience for opera fans and novices alike.

This comedic opera tells the story of Prince Tamino who is lured by the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter Pamina who’s being held captive by high priest Sarastro. Instead, he seeks to join Sarastro’s commnity. Alongside sidekick Papageno, both Pamino and Tamino undergo numerous trials of initiation which end triumphantly for them but not so much for the Queen.

A large white wall is both a cinema screen and stage. Small revolving doors positioned high, low and centrally, reveal the live performers who stand on tiny plinths while Paul Barritt’s animations project over them. This provides many wow moments as performers can be given elaborate costumes, interact with mind-bending and fun interpretations of characters and transports us to an out of this world realm.

The Magic Flute – Auckland Arts Festival 2019

This interpretation, that opened in Berlin in 2012, no doubt helps bring The Magic Flute to the masses with it’s accessible, delightful and captivating creativity moving the story along with pace and entertaining craziness. The show’s brilliant projected animations are reminiscent of both Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam and The Mighty Boosh in their innovative creativity and out-there comedic interpretations of a classic tale. Some of the darker more dramatic moments definately take influence from Tim Burton too. The only issue with this captivating visual display was remembering to read the English subtitles above.

The Magic Flute evoked much glee in the audience with many laughs and gasps throughout. The production’s continuous ingenuity surprises and delights as each new scene is presented on stage – all accompanied by beautiful pitch-perfect performances.

The leads Pamina, played by Kim-Lilian Strebel, and Tamino, played by Aaron Blake, win over the audience immediately but it was Joan Martin-Royo’s Papageno who got the crowd’s biggest reactions of the night. The villains too pleased the audience, with so much character delivered in Ivan Turšič’s Nosferatu inspired vampish Monostatos. Finally, the wonderful and captivating interpretation and vocals from the Queen of the Night, by Christina Poulitsi, was a real crowd pleaser and theatrical magic at it’s best.

The reworking or modernising of opera has varying degrees of success but this production creates a more accessible and entertaining watch than a traditional performance. The Magic Flute conjures up spellbinding entertainment for an enjoyable and eye opening night at the opera.

The Magic Flute is on at ASB Theatre as part of Auckland Arts Festival until 10th March.

Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar.

Photo credit – Michael Smith.