The Magic Flute at the ENO


There can be little doubt as to how much London needs the ENO, surely the capital’s most vibrant opera company. However, if anyone from the Arts Council has forgotten that during their current bout of fund-axing, I suggest they pop along to the Coliseum for the latest iteration of the company’s gem of a Magic Flute (faithfully revived by Rachel Hewer).

This is not a new production but Simon McBurney’s sparkling 2013/14 version is as fresh as a daisy. McBurney was the co-founder of Complicité so you can expect plenty of visual effects and gags, an orchestra raised from its pit to be part of the action and a foley (sound) and video artist either side of the stage producing wonders of their own. Actors turn sheets of papers into birds to flutter around Papageno, there are tiny puppets, the chief flautist (Claire Wickes) steps on stage to be the magic flute and Papageno romps through the audience, offering his phone number to any potential Papagenas. (There are moments of positive panto here.)

Video artist, Ben Thompson

David Stout is a wonderful Papageno with a fine baritone and brilliant comic timing. His spoken dialogue here is, in Stephen Jeffreys’ witty translation, often simply hilarious. All too often, the spoken words can slow down the plot and you’re anxious for the story to move on. Not here. This is an evening that fizzes along, and there’s barely a moment when you don’t have a smile on your face.

The orchestra doesn’t hold back either, Erina Yashima taking them through this late Mozart gem at a pace. There are numerous stand-out performances. In that make or break moment of the night, the Queen of the Night’s coloratura aria, Rainelle Krause is dazzling; John Relyea is a sombrely magnificent Sarastro; Alexandra Oomens is a charmingly idiosyncratic Papagena; and Peter Hoare a devilishly dirty old Monostatos, thoroughly earning all his boos at the curtain call. Norman Reinhardt is a sound Tamino and, as Pamina, Sarah Tynan is perfect with the sweetest soaring soprano and utterly convincing as the princess torn between dividing loyalties.

The ACE don’t seem to like opera, regarding it as elitist and irrelevant. This production should dispel all such illusions. There’s a full house, roars of laughter, frantic cheering for moments of musical magic and everyone goes home with a bit more joy in their hearts. You won’t find a better show in London. Someone should buy those guys a ticket.

The Magic Flute runs at the London Coliseum from 19th-30th March. For more information, and for tickets, please visit

Photos © Manuel Harlan