The Royal Festival Hall hosted a one-night stop on the current international tour of ‘The Magic Flute’, performed in German with dialogue in English. Ivan Fischer conducted the Budapest Festival Orchestra with flair, and it was good to see them all obviously enjoying making the most of Mozart’s dazzling score.
In a company of mostly young principals, the soprano Mandy Fredrich navigated the Queen of the Night’s fiendish arias and bursts of coloratura with ease, while Krisztián Cser‘s young and vital bass Sarastro gives a different frisson to his interaction with the imprisoned Pamina (Hanna-Elisabeth Müller). As Papageno, Hanno Müller-Brachmann‘s bass-baritone fits perfectly with his ridiculous yet lonely bird characterisation, and the scene near the close with his Papagena (Norma Nahoun), leaves a smile on the face.
This is a semi-staged performance, but the use of a video storybook to display the characters as well as the translation. Actors perform the dialogue for all the major roles and Bart van der Schaff was particularly amusing as Papageno. The switch between languages worked well and made the opera rather more accessible than a fully German version would be.
Ultimately this is a glorious piece of work, even if the text is rather misogynous in tone, referring to the subjection and inferiority of women – although, as Pamina joins her true love, Tamino (Bernard Richter) in the trials of fire and ice, she would seem to be as strong as any man.