Mozart's Magic Flute - November 2003

Magical Night to Remember

Consider this for a story line: A powerful priest abducts a beautiful princess. Her devious mother, the Queen of the Night asks a handsome prince to rescue her daughter. He agrees and is helped in his quest by the queen's friendly but simple bird-catcher. The prince is given a magic flute to help him fight off evil during his mission while his new friend is given magic bells.

The pair are guided by three 'boys' who are played by females. They triumph in their quest and the prince and princess fall in love while the bird-catcher finds the girl of his dreams.

It all sound likes a rather childish plot for a fairy tale or traditional pantomime and, in some ways, Mozart's opera The Magic Flute could easily drop into either category.

The music is delightful. There is a dragon, woodland animals, hiss-worthy characters, and the story is entertaining for anyone who loves the aura of magical and unreal worlds. Interwoven with action, however, the librettist has concealed Masonic rituals and symbols, while Mozart also conspired by composing the opera in the key of E flat major, which has three flats - and three is a Masonic sacred number. There are also three ladies, three spirits, three boys and so on.

Certainly, once armed with this knowledge, it helps to make sense of some of the scenes, such as the one where the prince and princess are invited to enter a priest's circle rather than a church to take their vows.

However, when Kentish Opera produced the work at The Stag Theatre last week, designed Enid Strutt created such a magical set that symbols and rituals were largely forgotten. Indeed, under atmospheric green and red lights, it looked very much like a setting for The Lord of the Rings with an eerie woodland, small mounds and a complex nest of caves.

Apart from a few examples of transformation, the many scenes were played out against this single setting which maintained the pace of the action, although on a few occasions there was slight confusion when some of the scenes merged rather too quickly.

The production was excellent and the director, Sally Langford, must have been delighted with the reception from the audience. With so many outstanding performances and costumes the encores were well deserved.

As usual, the Kentish Opera chorus was impeccable and the glorious bass baritone of Olle Zetterström as the high priest, the superb coloratura soprano of Rosalind Waters as the Queen of the Night, Freddie Tong's highly expressive and delightfully comic portrayal of the bird-catcher and the very professional orchestra conducted by Michael Lloyd, all helped to make the performance one to remember.

Roy Atterbury, Kentish Times 27th November 2003