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In Classical Music, Mozart, Opera, Review on December 2, 2014 at 8:57 am

Review – Die Zauberflöte (Royal College of Music, Britten Theatre, Saturday 29 November 2014)

Tamino – Nick Pritchard
Papageno – Timothy Connor
Pamina – Sofia Larsson
Die Konigin der Nacht – He Wu
Sarastro – Matthew Buswell
Drei Damen – Gemma Lois Summerfield, Angela Simkin & Maria Ostroukhova
Drei Knabe – Louise Fuller, Katie Coventry & Polly Leech
Papagena – Turiya Haudenhuyse
Monostratos – Peter Aisher

Director – Jean-Claude Auvray
Designer – Ruari Murchison
Lighting Designer – Michael Doubleday

Royal College of Music Orchestra

Michael Rosewell (Conductor)

The Britten Theatre was the perfect venue for a very strong production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte by the students of the Royal College of Music under the direction of Michael Rosewell.

There’s something almost ‘life affirming’ about attending a performance of such high musical, vocal and instrumental standards, performed with such passion, commitment and – in the case of Timothy Connor’s Papageno – cheeky verve.

While they have years ahead of them to forge the refine their vocal talents, the cast were uniformly strong but the stand out performers for me was Nick Pritchard’s Tamino and Timothy Connor’s Papageno. While he may have tired mid-way through the Second Act his tenor was bright and forthright but he also displayed that oft-missing subtlety of tone and dynamic control that even today’s more tenured tenors lack. He shaped his phrases beautifully and also exuded that naivety that is essential for Tamino. Timothy Connor played his unwilling side-kick very well, finding the right balance between slapstick humour and pathos. His diction – even when speaking – was very good and like Tamino, he elegantly shaped the vocal line intelligently. His duet with Pamina – Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen – similarly displayed that he has a natural ability to blend with other singers.

As Tamino’s future bride, Sofia Larsson demonstrated that she had all the notes for the role with a bright top and the ability to spin the most sensuous legato line. Over time I have no doubt that she will increase her range of colours but like Pritchard, I think they are destined for a bright future. He Wu and her three ladies were all equally impressive – with some of the best ensemble singing and acting I have seen by the Three Ladies – Mesdames Summerfield, Simkin and Ostroukhova and I particularly enjoyed the latter’s smoky, resonant singing. Ms Wu was a formidable Konigin, with pin-point accuracy in the coloratura but also investing overall in the precision of her singing and with excellent diction. Again, as her voice matures she will be able to colour what is – quite clearly – an remarkable instrument. Matthew Buswell’s Sarastro deployed a notable bass voice – both rich and resonant – but I did feel that sometimes there was both a lack of clarity in his diction and his singing.

In the pit, Michael Rosewell drew exemplary playing from the student orchestra, with especially fine and pungent playing from the brass. His ensured that the music was transparent and clear but I did feel that some of his tempi were a little fast.

And I am not quite sure that “Greed Is Good” was quite the moral that Mozart intended for Die Zauberflöte, which was the conclusion that I drew from Jean-Claude Auvray’s production. But while the idea of lauding of wealth as the answer for wisdom might seem a strange approach, I did enjoy his simple, no-nonsense approach. The idea of ‘revelation’ through the opening and closing of the central set was smartly done and surprisingly didn’t feel over-used or tired by the end. And the Drei Knaben caught the awkwardness of youth very smartly.

The entire production made for a very rewarding evening and I look forward to seeing their production of Handel’s Giove in Argo in 2015.

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  1. […] finally, a special mention to the Royal College of Music for their smart and inspired production of Die Zauberflöte. A promising ensemble of soloists demonstrated that we have – in the wings – some exciting new […]

  2. […] that made the latter aria the highlight of the evening. And finally, having admired He Wu’s Queen of the Night previously at the RCM, I have to admit I was disappointed with her Diana. A distracting vibrato […]

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