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The Magic Flute at the Samuel Beckett Theatre (Review)

The Opera Theatre Company is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary by touring the country with a production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Perhaps one of the most well-known and accessible operas, I do have to praise the cast and crew for bringing it to life. The production design is lavish and the vocal talent is impressive, even if there were one or two logistical problems to do with the staging in the Sam Beckett Theatre in Trinity College Dublin.

Sing no evil...

I like the Beckett Theatre. I’m a graduate of the college, and am familiar with the nice little theatre, which offers those staging a show a huge amount of variety and freedom in how they want to set up the venue. However, it wasn’t designed for this kind of opera. Crowding people into a small theatre packed to the brim, I did find myself straining slightly to make out the lyrics being sung – and the sound of footfall on the stage was just a little bit distracting.

Of course, one might argue that the lyrics are incidental. I think it betrays my lack of experience with opera that I was surprised to find the show rendered in English. I had the pleasure of attending a couple of shows on the continent in their original language, and the bulk of examples in film or television seem to portray opera as a “high”art, rendered and enjoyed in languages other than English. I suppose it makes sense to stage the show in English, given that the group seem to be aiming for more casual music fans.

Quit flutin' around and get her out of there...

Still, using an English translation does betray the fact that the story… is very strange. I don’t know, but I always kinda figured that opera made sense in the original language – that whatever the cast members were singing somehow explained the actions occurring on stage in a more practical and realistic manner than the back of the programme or a quick on-line read-up on the opera in question. Truth be told, I’d almost have preferred to seen the show in its original German. It seems almost surreal to be watching something so cultural that is so insane.

That said, the production is top notch. It does well to poke a great deal of fun at Mozart’s Freemasonry, and gives the whole thing a fairly colourful and understandable design. There’s never a moment in the show where a potential audience member will be lost, whether they’ve seen another iteration of the show, or whether this is their first encounter with the work. The props are overstated, the costumes clarify the roles each character plays, and central themes are literally spelt out in giant letters on the scenery, in case we didn’t get it. It might be a little bit too camp and simplistic for fans of classic opera, but it’s the kind of show that you could happily attend with the family.

On Garda...

The cast is mostly strong even if, as noted above, it was sometimes hard to make out the lyrics. While Adrian Dwyer, Matthew Trevino and Emma Morwood all acquit themselves well, it’s Owen Gilhooly who steals the show as Papageno. The adventure’s comic relief, Gilhooly manages to render the role as a solid character, rather than a simple archetype. He is, very clearly, the fool in this grand drama, but he’s also the most human of those involved. It’s Gilhooly more than his colleagues who manages to establish an emotional connection with the audience.

The Magic Flute is a grand way to bring Mozart to the masses. It’s fun and broad enough that it won’t alienate anybody. However, it isn’t quite perfect. There were problems with the staging, and the iconography might have been just a little bit too heavy. Still, it was an entertaining show, and well worth a recommendation for those looking to do something cultural during the year. You can find the group’s tour dates here.

2 Responses

  1. Sounds unforgettable!

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