Sep 12 2012 By Barry Dix
Hands up who doesn’t like opera? Thought so – and no doubt you’re all put off by the thought of pompous, over-long productions, images which persist despite all the worthy efforts to popularise the genre over the past couple of decades.
Well, think again. Or more radically, abandon those erroneous images and venture along to the Theatre Royal, Windsor, this week where you can revel in the delights of a thoroughly-accessible, hugely-enjoyable version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, featuring the combined talents of the newly-formed Regents Opera.
No stuffy elitism here. This is opera to watch with a big smile on your face.
Exquisite singing, elaborate costumes, good guys, bad guys, wacky dancing, topical jokes and subtle visual gags – all fluttering together within the confines of an absurd plot. There’s almost a touch of pantomime in this delightful piece of entertainment.
The 12-strong cast of singers boast an impeccable pedigree, all having trained at the most prestigious centres of learning in Europe, including the Royal Academy and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and working everywhere from The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, to the Barbican.
Likewise, the musicians providing the accompaniment, a pianist and wind quartet who sit on stage throughout the performance, have top credentials, having worked with everyone from the BBC Symphony Orchestra to the English National Opera, and one among their number even playing regularly for the Prince of Wales at various private functions.
Director and company founder Nicholas Heath has chosen to stage the action in the setting of a colonial hospital in India where hero Tamino is being treated for the effects of a snakebite, looked after adoringly by three sassy, love- smitten nurses.
The Magic Flute’s more usual overtones of Freemasonry – Mozart was a Freemason – are replaced by a medical theme, providing some perfect opportunities for injections of extra humour into the plot, particularly the final test for Tamino on his road to enlightenment when he and his love Pamina drink glasses of barium before being x-rayed!
Purists should not be too alarmed. All the familiar musical ingredients of The Magic Flute are in place and characters like the hilarious Papageno the bird catcher are still given the opportunity to soar to the heights.
It would be totally unfair to pick out any of the 12-strong cast for individual praise, as they all bring so much to the production, but there are several truly outstanding musical highspots which draw particularly rousing applause.
One small piece of advice – buy a programme and take a little time to read the synopsis of the plot beforehand. The goings-on are a little difficult to comprehend at times!
That aside, Regents Opera are to be congratulated on the way they have breathed new life into this well-loved masterpiece.
Founder Nicholas Heath has pledged to “provide affordable opera of outstanding quality”.
If this scintillating production of The Magic Flute is anything to go by, he has already succeeded admirably.
To find out what's available at The Theatre Royal Windsor, call the box office on 01753 853888 or visit www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk.