Mozart’s The Magic Flute was popularly received and critically acclaimed when it premiered in Vienna, in 1791. Mozart attended the performances multiple times and delighted in the popular reception. However, he died a mere 2 months after the opera’s premiere. He was 35 years old at the time.
If you base your knowledge of Mozart on the 1984 film, Amadeus – he is portrayed as a naughty, juvenile and foul mouthed party head, obsessed with girls and sex. More in line with a cliche view of modern day rock stars than classical composers. Regardless, he was recognised as a gifted and inspired musical genius from an early age, and took great pleasure in ridiculing older composers whose music was formulaic and unimaginative. In my favourite songs of this performance of The Magic Flute, the music felt effortless, simple and wonderfully beautiful like the best pop music of any age.
This production by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Opera School, is unusual according to the Music Director’s program notes. He says:
“We normally invite a director to create a brand new production, tailor-made for our students using the resources of the Conservatorium. This time, we have sourced an existing production, created by Michael Gow for Opera Australia, a production that has toured widely, and been highly acclaimed.”
A fellow patron told me that Con Opera bought the set from Opera Australia. Furthermore, the Director of this student production writes in his program notes that he hopes he has “… kept with the spirit of Michael’s clever work”.
One point of difference is the use of German lyrics. Though Opera Australia’s production had performed the opera in English, Con Opera has chosen to go back to the original German. Simple and clear English translation are projected above the stage, and I found that I had enough time to read them before looking back to watch the performance. I was glad that I had read the synopsis in the program whilst waiting for the performance to start, as I could relax and enjoy the performance having a rough idea of what the story was about.
The first half of the opera is silly and fun, kind of soap opera-ish. The second half is a little more serious, but has comedic moments too. It is wonderful to hear music like this performed in a smaller room, and one designed for performance of classical music. There were some great singers and musicians in this student production. The highlights for me were performances by Joshua Oxley (played Tamino), Esther Song (Queen of the night) and Samantha Lestavel (Pamina).
I really enjoyed it