Co-Opera presented its final performance for the 2015 season on the 14th June, performing Mozart’s ethereal The Magic Flute.
The expansive Thomas Edmunds Opera Studio in the Adelaide Showgrounds played host to another of Co-Opera’s Bring Your Own cabaret style performances. Wine flowed freely into plastic glasses as the chattering audience made themselves comfortable.
Director Tessa Bremner embraced with open arms the unique elements of comedy and fantasy that The Magic Flute offers. The performers’ comedic style and on-stage chemistry was undeniable. Twice they broke into choruses of twentieth century classics (Stop In the Name of Love and Baby Love), which complimented rather than distracted from the plot. Though regrettably, the chosen English translation left a little to be desired at times.
An intriguing urban construction scaffold served as set, artfully juxtaposing the magical storyline and relaxed mood of the audience.
The Magic Flute tells the somewhat fragmented tale of two unlikely friends Pamino (Branko Lovrinov) and the bird-like Papageno (Nicholas Cannon) as they undertake a quest from the Queen of the Night (Sharon Turley) – to rescue her daughter Pamina (Sara Lambert) from the supposedly evil Lord Sarastro (Eddie Muliau).
All original references to the Freemasons and Enlightenment philosophy were omitted from this production, though the themes of truth and reason triumphing over deception were honoured. This production focused on the love story between Pamino and Pamina, with Papageno’s journey of self-discovery serving as comic relief.
The costumes were colourful and detailed – with the Queen of the Night in a purple velvet brocade dress accented with sequins and sparkling jewels; her Three Ladies in cocktail dresses with nature fairy accents; and our innocent heroine Pamina in a vintage ensemble reminiscent of Sandy from Grease. Papageno was dressed in a relaxed surfer outfit replete with backwards baseball cap, Nike sneakers, and a bird print shirt. This last complimented Cannon’s comedic, bird-like mannerisms.
It was wonderful to see a Co-Opera production with a larger cast. Even those cast members with smaller roles, the Three Ladies or Sarastro’s temple guards for instance, gave resounding and beautiful performances. Turley’s rendition of Der Hölle Rache was stellar. Muliau’s caramel-smooth bass was easily heard above the entire chorus. Cannon and Karina Jay’s (as Papagena) performance of Pa-pa-pa was delightful. Flautist Linda Pirie’s solos were impeccable and resonated across the entire Studio.
Perhaps neither a conventional opera nor production, Co-Opera’s The Magic Flute resulted in a truly magical night.
Reviewed by Nicola Woolford