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Mozart The Magic Flute

Armonico Consort Opera / The Orchestra of the Baroque

Barbican Hall 26 July 2007


Conductor: Christopher Monks

Director: Thomas Guthrie

Designer: Roger Butlin


Tamino: Mark Wilde

Papageno: Thomas Guthrie

Queen of the Night : Jacquelyn Parker

Pamina: Elin Manahan Thomas

Sarastro: Ronald Nairne

Papagena: Sinead Pratschke



A small inviting looking set, evoking the leafy world of Henri Rousseau and his Snake Charmer, with children in animal masks crawling with lithesome ease, indicated that this production was going to concentrate on the light hearted aspects of Mozart's singspiel, and so it proved.


The dragon looked impressive but was soon vanquished, and whilst Jacquelyn Parker negotiated the high register of the Queen of the Night's two blistering arias effectively, the mock evil of her intents was clear.


On the side of good, Elin Manahan Thomas's Pamina displayed a heart and voice of gold, and Mark Wilde, whose name I have come to associate of late with bel canto repertoire, made light work of Tamino. Ronald Nairne showed off a voice of real stature and warmth as a Sarastro with considerable stage presence, and was ably assisted by the two priests, William Townend and Nicholas Mulroy whose clear handling of their spoken dialogue guided the us all through the mysterious trial procedure.


Director Thomas Guthrie had cast himself in the role of Papageno, from which he could fine tune the pace and humour as the show progressed. His voice lacked something in weight, but blended attractively with the other singers.


In time honoured pantomime tradition Papagena made her first appearance on stage in the guise of an ice-cream seller, which clearly confused some members of the audience*, but this device and her subsequent transformation were handled with good humour in the cheerful Irish brogue of Sinead Pratschke.


The Orchestra of the Baroque was impressive, and grouped to one side of the stage th eplayers were visible without being distracting.


As part of the Mostly Mozart season, this production had a definite festive air about it and is one I shall remember with pleasure.


Serena Fenwick

*- - Papageno invited a timid 18 year old member of the Barbican staff onto the platform and pestered her with leering, intrusive questions. I can't remember witnessing a more humiliating, cringingly embarrassing comedic misfire on a London stage.

Surf The Magic Flute and Zauberflöte on Musical Pointers !


Haydn, Mozart, Lindberg & Beethoven

Barbican Hall 27 July 2007

Barbirolli Quartet
Haydn String Quartet Op 20, No 4
Beethoven String Quartet Op 59, No 1

A fine and memorable evening at The Barbican, beginning with a visit to the thought provoking exhibition in The Curve about city v. rural living; Forest Rising, an experiment of Amazonian life in the twenty-first century.

Next, two string quartets in the carpeted foyer, given by the international members of The Barbirolli Quartet. This was an intriguing and very satisfying Free Foyer Music event. The audience was at first small, mostly sitting on the floor. A good, sound account of the Haydn, with impeccable tuning and ensemble, was followed by the Beethoven which showed evidence of thorough preparation. A depth of interpretation, and unanimity in execution; no compromise for this Barbican debut! Rhythms had just the right degree of response to the musical narrative, the cellist often taking things a little forward. Beauty of tone predominated, and quiet was often very quiet, drawing in the listeners, but matched by surges of energy for the more dramatic passages and climaxes.

Gradually the 'listeners' multiplied right back to the bar area, and chatter and the clinking of glasses began to feature in the background, but some of us were able to maintain full concentration in this friendly informal environment.

(The Barbirolli Quartet has been selected to take part in the Park Lane Group's week at South Bank next January; and I discovered only afterwards that Mark Dennis had already reviewed violinist Katie Stillman as soloist for Musical Pointers at this year's PLGYM series.)

Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard conductor
Francois Leleux oboe
Lisa Batiashvilli violin

Mozart Overture, Don Giovanni;
Oboe Concerto
Magnus Lindberg Violin Concerto
Beethoven Symphony No 3 'Eroica'

On into the main hall, for a remarkable concert by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.Its 40 musicians belie the description and demonstrated comprehensively that no more are needed for the Eroica which sounded magnificent at The Barbican; no one there would have wished it had been a bigger band.

Their quality had had inspired Lindberg to elaboration in orchestral scoring for his new concerto (strings divisi). Because of his economy in writing for a modest Mozartean orchestra this marvellous new work, its three movements played continuously, could have a fruitful concert life - if other violinists emerge with the comprehensive technique of Lisa Batiashvilli, who introduced it to England with panache and sensitivity to its beauties.

She just played, whereas the other soloist, oboist Francois Leleux, who also had enviable command of his instrument, seemed to find it necessary to paint the air with his oboe and mirror the music with such excessive body choreography that I had to close my eyes to listen without distraction. He gave us Mozart's oboe concerto, more often heard in transcription as a flute concerto; Mozart's fee was halved because the commission for that had been for a new work! Leleux provided his own cadenzas for each of the three movements, so perhaps he should be paid a fee-and-a-half?

This Mostly Mozart series is based on the surest-fire marketing recipe for bums on seats (even in competition with the Proms) and the well filled Barbican's audience was rewarded by this exceptional orchestra with fine accounts of favourites under the gesturally economical conducting of Thomas Dausgaard, who was good to watch and effective in moulding the phrasing and energising the musicians.

The Don Giovanni overture was a powerful call to attention, and the Eroica was followed by encores, including Alfvén's Dance of the Shepherd Girl and a sumptuous showcase for the strings in Sibelius' Andante Festivo - the party atmosphere rather like Beecham's with his lollipops.

Peter Grahame Woolf