The Magic Flute
Welsh National Opera
Directed by Daisy Evans, adapted from Wolfgang Mozart
Venue Cymru, Llandudno
March 29-31, 2 hrs 45 mins
How much political correctness can we tolerate before we decide we have chucked the baby out with the bath water?
Undoubtedly, Mozart’s Magic Flute has some attitudes that are unacceptable in 21st Century Britain, so perhaps need to be challenged. But should this take the form of changing those things we dislike, or do we present the work as it is and use these elements as talking points?
Welsh National Opera's production has plenty to offer. The cast is enthusiastic and there is plenty going on . The voices of Thando Mjandana as Tamino and April Koyejo-Audiger as Pamina stood out, but they were well supported by Quirijn de Lang (Papageno) who adds many comic moments.
The storyline of reason as a source of enlightenment is maintained and communicated well, and there is an imaginative use of light and bird puppetry. The use of light wands to frame a person at strategic moments is very effective, but I was not convinced by using a light sabre to replace the magic flute.
Mozart’s opera is a child of its time, with misogynistic and racist themes: a woman’s role was to be pretty and of value to her husband; white people were refined, educated and wise and black people sly, sluggish and neglectful.
I am not convinced the changes made to correct these attitudes work. It is good to see people of colour in lead roles and women as strong characters, but replacing a Blackamoor slave leader with an educator is surprising and perhaps contradictory. Reason as a route to enlightenment is promoted by education, not degraded by it.
What springs to mind when one hears Mozart is something that is playful, harmonious and funny, with serious undertones. This work epitomises that; there is plenty of operatic fun, but a serious point is being made. It rails against the control exerted by traditional institutions and advocates a quest for enlightenment that can be challenging. This production certainly develops a darkness and light dualism, but then seeks to harmonise those in the finale, which strays from the original.
Many will enjoy this production thanks to the sheer value of Mozart's music, but others might feel change has gone too far, and for no overwhelming reason.
This remains a controversial production, liable to incite strong feelings no matter where one stands.
Tickets and information here