Die Zauber­flöte

Com­poser: Mozart Di­rec­tor: Ne­tia Jones Con­duc­tor: Chris­tian Curnyn Gars­ing­ton Opera, Worm­s­ley Es­tate, Buck­ing­hamshire (01865-361636). Un­til 21 July Run­ning time: 4hrs 10mins (in­clud­ing in­ter­val)

The Week - - Arts | Drama -

The Magic Flute can some­times leave me cold, said Mark Va­len­cia on What’s On Stage. Mozart’s mu­sic is of course “divine”, but the plot­ting is so “daft” that (para­dox­i­cally) I rel­ish each new stag­ing to see how the di­rec­tor will solve its prob­lems. And the good news is that Ne­tia Jones’s new pro­duc­tion at Gars­ing­ton is “a corker” – a “lav­ishly cos­tumed sum­mer en­ter­tain­ment” that may prove “em­i­nently re­viv­able” in years to come. Jones em­braces the opera’s “mad­ness, and chan­nels it through dystopian vis­ual tropes that will ring bells with view­ers of The Hand­maid’s Tale and Twin Peaks”. Mi­nor char­ac­ters have been turned into mal­func­tion­ing au­toma­tons; oth­ers into “nat­tily dressed” clones. It may sound odd, but it works a treat, and the mu­si­cal side of things is an “un­al­loyed de­light”, as Chris­tian Curnyn stirs the Gars­ing­ton Opera Orches­tra & Cho­rus to “ex­u­ber­ant heights” and gal­vanises a “won­der­fully dis­tin­guished cast”.

Stand­outs in­clude Ben­jamin Hulett, who gives us “the most force­fully sung” Tamino we’ve heard in years, said Michael Church in The In­de­pen­dent. Jonathan Mcgovern’s charis­matic Pa­pageno is a “lovely char­ac­ter study in peas­ant wit and wis­dom”. And as Queen of the Night, Sen Guo hits her high notes with “laser-like ac­cu­racy”. In ad­di­tion there are “plenty of laughs”, the cos­tumes are “stylish and in­ven­tive”, and there’s a “bril­liant vis­ual coup de théâtre”, sug­gest­ing the tri­umph of light over dark­ness. I was less sure, though, of the de­ci­sion to set the sec­ond act in a Ma­sonic lodge – in my view it sim­ply de­tracts from the work’s “sub­lime mys­tery”.

I wasn’t con­vinced that Jones had re­ally cracked this “strange crea­ture” of an opera or cap­tured its “an­ar­chic, elu­sive” qual­ity, said Alexan­dra Cogh­lan on The Arts Desk. She may have sub­dued “its more stub­born dif­fi­cul­ties”, but at times it felt like an over­thought “gen­der stud­ies sem­i­nar” of a show. Still, this is one of the “hand­somest” pro­duc­tions yet mounted at the fes­ti­val’s Worm­s­ley home – and it boasts “as strong a cast as Gars­ing­ton has ever fielded”.

Hulett and Mcgovern: a corker

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