Friday, February 7, 2014


Conductor:Andrew Legge
Andrew Jones as Papageno 
Director:Matthew Barclay based on the original production by Julie Taymor. Set Design: George Tsypin. Costume Design:   Julie Taymor. Lighting Design:   Gary Marder based on the original design by Donald Holder. 
Choreography: Matthew Barclay based on the original choreography by Mark Dendy
Opera Australia – Sydney Opera House until 26 March 2014
Performance on 4th February 2014 reviewed by Bill Stephens

Julie Taymor is currently well represented in Sydney with two of her productions running simultaneously in the city. “The Lion King” is currently playing in the Capitol theatre while at the same time “The Magic Flute” is being presented by Opera Australia in The Sydney Opera House.

Both use puppetry to great affect, but while the storytelling in the former is crystal clear, that in “The Magic Flute” is more problematical.

On first viewing of this production in 2012, the impression was that something had been lost in translation; that the original director’s vision had been clouded; and many of the puppets were being waved about by the cast with little understanding as to why. Papageno’s strong ocker accent jarred, and some of the singing was below par.

On revisiting the production this year, the staging has tightened, the singing has certainly improved noticeably, the puppetry is more focussed, but Papageno’s Australian accent still jars.
Andrew Jones as Papageno with Opera Australia dancers.

Despite the program notes being at pains to align Mozart’s intentions with English pantomime, the interpolation of the Australian ocker accent is stylistically at odds with the rest of the production, even if it did get laughs at this performance. These lines usually get laughs even when done without an ocker accent. And the audience is still left wondering why, if it is the music from the magic flute which protects Tamino and Pamina during the final fire and water trial, Tamino is not actually playing the flute instead of waving it around.

Quibbles aside, this production still has many captivating elements which make it  essential viewing for those who love this work, or have yet to experience a production of it. 

John Longmuir as Tamino and Taryn Fiebig as Pamina
The costume, make-up and scenery design are exceptional. Conductor, Anthony Legge, insures that the music is beautifully realised by the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and the singing this time around is first rate.

John Longmuir is a handsome, believable Tamino, and Taryn Fiebig is superb as Pamina. Her singing of the lovely Act 11 aria expressing her grief that Tamino no longer loves her is heart-breakingly beautiful.
Milica Illic as the Queen of the Night

As the fearsome Queen of the Night, Milica Illic glitters impressively both vocally and in appearance, Richard Anderson’s secure basso voice and stately bearing are used to great effect as Sarastro, and Kanen Breen, as a wonderfully loathsome Monostatos, adds  another remarkable characterisation to his already impressive repertoire. Despite his questionable accent, Andrew Jones certainly brings a fine voice and engaging personality to the role of Papageno.
Kanen Breen as Monostato together with Jane Ede, Sian Pendry,Dominica Mathews as the three ladies.

Given that it was originally conceived for young people, this re-production by Opera Australia seems undecided as to whether it's aimed at children or adults, as a result it is one to be enjoyed more for the music and the spectacle rather than intellectual stimulus, but even on that criteria it's really rather marvellous. 
                                                  Photos by Lisa Tomasetti