The week had got off to the best possible start for English Touring Opera with its triumph at the Olivier Awards, scooping up an outstanding achievement gong for two of its current projects, Tippett’s King Priam and Britten’s Paul Bunyan.
On Tuesday, the company turned to Mozart's perplexing 1791 blockbuster The Magic Flute to open its brief stint at York Theatre Royal.
The veiled nature of the opera’s Masonic imagery was reflected (literally) in director Liam Steel’s apt decision to make masks and mirrors something of a feature within a tastefully minimal set. Occasional prop-based bewilderment reigned: sceptres more closely resembled luminous cotton buds. Meanwhile, the Three Boys played by women? Standard. Kitted out in illuminating lampshade skirts? Less so.
The cast proved well balanced, the depravity of Stuart Haycock’s Monostatos being levelled by the butter-wouldn’t-melt heroism ofNicholas Sharratt’s Tamino. While Laure Meloy may not quite have reached every single note in the notoriously challenging Queen of the Night role, her marvellously contrived demeanour filled every inch of her extravagant garb: think Cruella de Vil’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
The keystone, however, was delivered in tandem: Anna Patalong (Pamina) brought curious gravitas to an often underdeveloped character with her melodic instinct, while the Welsh swagger of Wyn Pencarreg’s Papageno injected warmth and humour into every scene he graced.
Above all, enough space was left to allow the muscular orchestra – energetically guided by the attentive James Southall – through as an excellent vehicle for Mozart’s resplendent score. Well over two centuries later, it still dazzles.
English Touring Opera perform their Olivier Award-winning production of Britten’s Paul Bunyan at York Theatre Royal tonight at 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or visit www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk to book now.
Review by Richard Powell