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Mozart Die Zauberflöte
& Piano Concerto No 24

RAM Opera/Jane Glover
& RAM Orchestra/Mitziko Uchida at Royal Academy of Music
March 12/14 2012

Tamino – Rupert Charlesworth
Papageno – Johnny Herford

Queen of the Night & Pamina – Ruth Jenkins & Aoife Miskelly
Papagena – Nathalie Chalkley
Sarastro – Frederick Long
Monastatos – Samuel Furness
Speaker – Adam Marsden
Three women – Sarah Lian Owen, Rachel Kelly & Fiona Mackay


Three children – Katie Mazur, Lily Rafalin & William Campbell







Armed Men – Stuart Jackson & Nicholas Crawley

Royal Academy Chorus & Sinfonia/Jane Glover

Stephen Barlow – Director
Yannis Thavoris – Designer
David Howe – Lighting designer
Victoria Newly – Choreographer
Language coach - Gerhard Gall

Sir Jack Lyons Theatre, Royal Academy of Music, London

This Magic Flute (in impressive German pronunciation by all !) was the latest confirmation that the leading colleges & conservatoires have nothing to fear in comparison with the well-funded main opera houses. Singers are now taught superbly, and opera voices mature earlier than in times past. Student orchestras are prepared to a high level with less rehearsal time constraint than applies to many professional symphony concerts.

This was a disturbing Zauberflöte, which I only began to come to terms with after the interval; by the end, I capitulated and was keen to hear it again, so returned for the second cast; not quite so good, but again the second Act had me fully engaged with its wonderful overall structure and emotional depths alongside the humour. Capriccio places it as in the '80s; Classical Source locates it in "the gormless hedonism of the 1970s", and both give detailed appraisals of the excellent singing by principals and chorus.

I found myself relating it to the revelation of "weekend highs" currently being indulged in dangerously by "predominantly well-educated working people who felt they were in control of their lives" and who needed something different after a hard-working week [Guardian]; some music students too??

Hana Zushi's press photos are mainly of particular singers in ones and twos, but don't give a good idea of the stage scenes as a whole; nothing of the first scene's drugged mayhem.

I've found but one example of the very apposite labelling of the youthful Sarastro's seemingly benign cult headquarters, where everyone studies hard and needs silence to do so - spoilt by Papageno, who never can keep quiet or stop taking photos. See above the Armed Men looking after the sauna, a brief visit to which looked less of an ordeal than some Paminos & Paminas endure!

Jane Glover had prepared a marvellously idiomatic overture which we could concentrate upon nearly undistracted, with the curtain still closed as used to be; but a warning of things to come with the three children (quite marvellous, once they were singing) put at the side of the stage, purportedly listening to the same music on a ghetto blaster & signifying unconvincingly that they liked it. It took me a little too long to grasp that the invisible serpent which floored Tamino was the party-drugs and their supplier.

The RAM Theatre is small & intimate - some of the singers (especially in the second cast) seemed bent on showing that they cold fill an opera house; opportunities for quiet singing were sometimes lost and balance between stage and orchestra pit was variable.

All in all, a worthwhile addition to the multifarious approaches to The Magic Flute; but not one for the children...

The RAM is able to maintain two high-class orchestras with different personell; on 14 March the new Dame, Mitzuko Uchida, brought her tireless enthusiasm to coaching the RAM Orchestra in accompanying the great Piano Concerto in C minor in a concerto day after the success of last year’s workshop on Mozart’s K466.

A full audience attended the large Duke's Hall; loud speakers were installed so that no-one missed a word, and video-screens around the Academy ensured tha everyone there knew what was going on.

Something of an hour and a half was devoted to minutiae of phrasing, articulation and tone in the first movement, and hopefully she inspired lastingly her love and amazement at the perfection of this key concerto in the repertoire.

Peter Grahame Woolf

For a merciless traditionalist put-down of the Die Zauberflöte see Boulezian ! ( - - Thank goodness there were no overt concessions on offer to the ‘authenticke’ brigade.)