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Magic touch to Mozart at the Queen of the Night in Soho

Opera Up Close’s Magic Flute at the Soho Theatre is quite unlike any other production to reach the stage

15 September, 2017 — By Sebastian Taylor

Susie Buckle, Lawrence Olsworth-Peter, Lancelot Nomura, Fleur de Bray in Opera Up Close’s Magic Flute. PHOTO: Christopher Tribble

Mozart’s Magic Flute is the most popular of all operas, reputedly a new production being staged somewhere in the world every week.

It’s pretty popular here, too. In the past year or so, there have been new productions or revivals put on by Hampstead Garden Opera, King’s Head Theatre, ENO and, only this week, the Royal Opera House.

Opera Up Close is joining the club putting on its Magic Flute at the Soho Theatre and, not surprisingly as it’s OUC, it’s quite unlike any other production yet to reach the stage.

For a start, it is set in and around the Queen of the Night nightclub in Soho itself. Outside in the Soharian dark is a rough-sleeper, litter and the ubiquitous No Waiting cone; inside, all is brightness, fun and laughter.

Also as it’s OUC seeking to make opera more accessible, there’s no surprise in the scalpel taken to Mozart’s story-line. Gone are the fairies, religion, freemasonry; gone, too, are the flights of Mozartian fancy.

Instead, we get an opera about everyday young people having a good time in Soho who just happen to be oddball characters with names like Tamino, Papageno and Pamina.

Importantly, there’s a new English text by top-notch, highly experienced librettist Glyn Maxwell. The text is printed as part of the programme. It reads very well, full of poetry, delightful couplets, dramatic twists and turns.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to glean much, if any, of Maxwell’s linguistic endeavours in the theatre. That’s either down to poor diction of the professional singers or the unsingability of Maxwell’s text.

Whatever, the production should appeal to Soho types and, if you’re thinking of going, it will help greatly if you get there early to read Maxwell’s new text before the show. Otherwise, you won’t have a clue what’s going on.

Mozart’s The Magic Flute runs until October 7 at Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, W1, 020 7478 0100, www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/

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