Scottish Opera’s Magic Flute – Festival Theatre

Scottish Opera has produced a magnificent operatic experience will be entertaining not only for opera lovers, but also young audiences and those looking to expand their theatrical horizons. With glittering costume, scenic design, and top musicians who deliver shining performances, this is truly a phenomenal experience.

The accessibility of this performance is augmented by the Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s contemporary English translation which preserves and projects laugh-out loud comedy within the lyrics. In spite of a few technological glitches in the overhead screen captioning, the dialogue is always easy enough to understand. The Magic Flute also contains spoken dialogue, making it a perfect transitional performance for fans of comedic operettas or even musical theatre looking to delve into the world of opera.

The stand-out performance of the evening came from comic relief Richard Burkhard as Papageno, played as a bumbling cockney whose improvised humour brought an appropriate amount of fourth-wall breaks and kept the audience laughing. A less traditional take on the character, he was not dressed in a bird suit, but adorned sparingly with feathers, matching perfectly with his take on the character and keeping the show fresh and appropriate where it could have been dated. His powerful voice rounded out the characterisation, composing a near-perfect performance.

Julia Sitkovetsky gives another outstanding performance as The Queen of the Night, whose famous second-act aria sounds almost more instrumental than human at its highest notes. She makes the most out of a challenging piece, and brings the house down with her unbelievable vocal ability.

As much as Scottish Opera did to contemporize the show, perhaps the fatal flaw of the production is the sexism inherent within the script. It is continuously suggested that the female antagonists of the production and their opinions should be dismissed as emotional chatter. Women become the butt of many jokes, and damsel in distress Pamina is just that, failing to exhibit independence or personal strength throughout much of the performance. Gemma Summerfield is stunning and her vocals undeniably impressive, but her performance as Pamina fails to counteract the pitiful submission written into her character.

However, it should be noted that there is a lengthy passage in the show’s programme discussing the production company’s choices regarding gender through a historical lens, and arguing that Pamina and Tamino’s joint salvation at the end of the play leaves them as equals within their relationship and therefore suggests a shift towards gender equality more broadly. Although I would argue that more could have been done to improve gender dynamics within the production, I appreciate that the issue is something that the company deeply considered and discussed while developing the show.

One of the Festival Theatre’s most stunningly impressive productions this year, Scottish Opera’s Magic Flute is a must-see. I urge students away for the summer to seek out the company’s future productions which are sure to be of equal, mind-blowing production value.


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Julia Weingaertner

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