Who writes this stuff?

Last Saturday night with D to Opera Australia’s Magic Flute.

Our normal row-A seats had been bumped back a row and we chinned up to an extension stage over the row where we would usually be sitting with no view of the orchestra. It all felt just a little claustrophobic, and that feeling carried over to the set and the various puppets swooping around in it.

The production did not weave the spell on us that it is said to have woven on others. Maybe we were too close. Maybe things were different further back, where the puppets were more of a plus compared to what they would otherwise expect to see. Mind you, I didn’t feel a particularly powerful audience response to the performance.

There were children in the audience but not an overwhelming number. Saturday night is probably not the best night to see the response in that department.

Attracting the children is surely the justification for the substantial cuts (to make things “family friendly”). Why else ditch centuries of theatrical wisdom about the use of an overture? And this, after all, is a very famous and popular overture.

All of this probably means it was not likely to be the performance for me.

It is true (thinking back) that The Magic Flute can almost always be annoying in some ways including in the Mozartean tenor department at least with Opera Australia. Andrew Brunsdon seemed uncomfortable as Tamino – if he wasn’t then I think he should be rethinking his approach.

For me, the last production did a much better job of the second act than the present one does. In this production the ordeals were cut back too much so they lost any real structure and the “tower of fire” bit was a total fizzer.

The title of this post, however, refers to the article in the Sydney Morning Herald, quoted somewhere I am sure by Opera Australia in their publicity (“this production is a triumph”). I’m calling it an article because it is clear that it is not Peter McCallum’s review, because that review included some criticism of the cuts or at least assessment of their effect that this article lacks.

Here are some sample passages:

(1)

The opening-night audience gasped when a flock of tropical birds fluttered over the heads of those in the first few rows. Later, huge bears, pink flamingoes and yet more exquisite birds danced to Mozart’s ”magical bells”, leaving the audience stunned.

(2)

this is a richly-imagined production, sung in modern English and performed with spoken text.

(3)

Among its young cast are future stars.

(1) speaks for itself. (2) is true and probably useful information for newcomers to opera: all productions of MF have dialogue. (3) just seems odd although the language is on a par with “gasped” and “stunned” in (1).

Opinions are expressed, but there is no by-line.

Who writes this stuff?

3 Responses to “Who writes this stuff?”

  1. wanderer Says:

    The whole thing sounds appalling. People, hundreds of them, dressed as Mozart should be picketing the grand stairs. I’m busy I’m afraid.

  2. marcellous Says:

    W, you jest, surely?

    I’m not saying it was appalling, but it fell short of spellbinding and I’m not sure the hoo-ha over the production was worth what was ditched.

    Of course, that is a subjective judgment, for me, usually sitting close. For others (people who haven’t seen this work before; journalists recycling press-releases; children sitting a long way back; people who want to be out of the theatre by 9.30 pm) it could be quite a different thing.

    Diana Simmonds mounted a spirited defence (cf MB in the Oz who is less of a cheerleader). Apparently if I don’t choose to be delighted by this production I am just a lemon-sucker. “Family friendly” doesn’t mean so much to me.

    DS spends a lot of her space defending Julie Taymor’s concept. The cuts are really a separate issue because JT did do a full-length version first. But for the cuts, I’m fine with the production, though I expect it will work better on a bigger stage in Melbourne. And it wasn’t all gains: the rigmarole required for the Queen of the Night actually made her presentation rather static.

    If I were a child I wouldn’t notice whether the singing was good or not.

    If Mozart’s shade can countenance Mozart-kugeln, this should be a snap.

  3. wanderer Says:

    Only half (if that) jesting. I haven’t seen it. MB’s opinion I value, especially thoughts like this:

    What’s overlooked in Taymor’s abbreviated version are the opera’s deeper meanings. Action and spectacle, romance and comedy take priority over the exploration of ideas about reason, truth, fraternity and virtue“.

    I don’t buy that it is a children’s opera. Animals don’t make children’s operas. What next?: a cut-down Siegfried?

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