A MAGIC FLUTE
after W A Mozart freely adapted by Peter Brook, Franck Krawczyk, Marie-Hélène Estienne.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 27 March 2011.
Wed-Sat 7.45pm Sun 5pm Mat Sat 2.30pm (sold out apart from Sat 2.30pm).
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 0845 120 7550.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 March.
Mozart opera with piano, sing in German and spoken in French, but reaching to the heart of the matter.
Quite a lot of flutes might be made out of the tall bamboo canes forming the set for Peter Brook’s stripped-down Mozart. The set provides variety within simplicity, as the canes form a forest, or a temple, finally clearing a space for the happy lovers they’ve entangled. Manipulated by two non-singing actors, some become a thicket, or one forms a branch where the sexually-frustrated Papageno plans to hang himself.
These actors share the role of stage management, tactfully or hurriedly clearing unwanted cloaks or canes. One is the purposeful dragon threatening Tamino at the opening. For this encounter is no accident; Tamino is being led to rescue Pamina. But does she need rescuing?
For The Magic Flute reveals her captor, the Masonic-like Sarastro, is a figure of light, while Pamina’s mum, Queen of the Night, is the darker force her name suggests. Brook’s version includes a spoken scene providing their back-story, making it evident Sarastro sees Tamino’s mission as a fulfilment of love – one of Mozart’s arias celebrates married love as human fulfilment. Though, as the fire and water tests (staged with grave simplicity rather than theatrical excitement) make clear, the marriage can’t be a casual affair.
On an earthier plane there’s some fun with the birdseller Papageno, whose eventual mate Papagena, reveals herself as a smiling young woman dressed identically to her male counterpart.
Smiling isn’t the thing for Pamina, though her dignified gravity and eventual expression in song give her an identity curiously lacking in Brook’s Tamino. Initially a silent vision she becomes one of the characters who most fulfils Brook’s stated interest in bringing characters and audience close together, sweeping to the front stage (only Papageno beats her proximity in his search for a woman).
Brook creates a surface simplicity that makes each detail purposeful. A lot’s cut, including the spectacle – and the orchestra, though onstage piano accompaniment serves the action well. But the exploration of human values is intense, something caught in the moment where Sarastro’s ritualistic ‘O Isis and Osiris’ is humanised by being sung as he brings the lovers to their first, love-magicked meeting.
Tamino: Adrian Strooper/Antonio Figeuroa.
Pamina: Jeanne Zaepffel/Agnieszka Slawinska.
Queen of the Night: Malia Bendi-Merad/Leila Benhamza.
Papageno: Thomas Dolié/Virgile Frannais.
Sarastro: Luc Bertin-Hugualr/Patrick Bolleire.
Papagena: Dima Bawab/Betsabée Haas.
Monostatos: Raphaël Bremard/Jean-Christophe Born.
Actors: William Nadylam, Abdou Ouologuem.
Pianist: Franck Krawczyk/Matan Porat.
Director: Peter Brook.
Lighting: Philippe Vialatte.
Movement: Marcello Magni.
Costume: Hélène Patarat, Oria Puppo.
Magic effects: Célia Amino.