It's been eleven days since I had the pleasure of seeing Welsh National Opera's The Magic Flute, but what with all the Wagner drama, I haven't had the time to reflect. Fistly, I was new to WNO, and hadn't expected the Wales Millenium Centre to be SO exciting. For those who haven't had the opportunity to visit, it is a very beautiful building- imposing and modern, but also sympathetic to its surroundings. Once inside the auditorium, I knew the accoustics were going to be seriously special, and my companion for the afternoon was waxing lyrical about the interiors of the building, which compliment the exterior brilliantly with highly polished wood of different tones and textures.
Our seats were absolutely fantastic (quite by chance) and we found ourselves slap bang in the middle of the raised stalls. At around forty pounds a ticket, I thought it was excellent value (given the quality of the performance and the fact that for a seat of this calibre at a venue like ROH, you would have to remortgage your house).
Visually, WNO's Magic Flute is a real treat. Influenced by Magritte and Dali, the vivid blues and oranges, giant shell fish and raining glitter were a real antidote to the windy Welsh autumn afternoon. WNO completely embraced Mozart's magic, and given that the plot of the Magic Flute requires the absolute suspension of disbelief, why not go the whole hog and create something aesthitcally enchanting? There are so many visual aspects of this production which go beyond the cheerful and border on the moving- the twinkling fairy lights and descending dark sky were a very atmospheric introduction to The Queen of the Night, and I must admit to having had a little lump in my throat during the 'Pa, pa, pa, pa' duet, when lots of toy babies clad in feathers popped up through holes in the stage to be collected by a very surprised Papageno and Papageno.
The Orchestra of Welsh National Opera (conducted by the wonderful Gareth Jones) are sublime, and there is serious talent amongst the cast. The Guardian have heaped praise on Neal Davies' Papageno, and he certainly had theatrical as well as vocal talent. A former winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World Lieder Prize, Davies has a lot of Handel and Mozart in his repetoire, and has fine tuned his performance of Papageno- he's a natural comedian, and in many ways he stole the show.
Another Cardiff Singer of the World success story, Elizabeth Watts (winner of the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize 2007) sang Pamina with great feeling and skill- there is a rich and creamy tone to her voice which was a continual joy to hear, and she definitely looked the part (alabaster voluptuousness in pale chiffon and sparkling diamonds- see programme sketch below). The revelation of the afternoon for me, however, was tenor Peter Wedd, who sang Tamino.To my untrained ear he sounded pretty perfect, and I was excited to read that he will be singing Don Jose in Opera North's 2011 Carmen, which I've already got tickets for.
All in all, this Magic Flute has made me a WNO fan, and (despite recent so-so reviews for their Fidelio) I will definitely be making an effort to see them again in the new year. It's a bit of a hike to Cardiff, but this particular opera was certainly worth it, as was the opportunity to experience the amazing Wales Millenium Centre.