Die Zauberflöte, review: Glyndebourne, until August 24

Caroline Wettergreen (centre) as Queen of the Night. Picture: Glyndebourne Productions Ltd (Bill Cooper)
Caroline Wettergreen (centre) as Queen of the Night. Picture: Glyndebourne Productions Ltd (Bill Cooper)

“Opera’s answer to Morecambe and Wise, as coarse as Little and Large, as camp as Hinge and Bracket” – well, bring it on.

Former MP and Mail on Sunday music correspondent David Mellor was clearly unimpressed by Glyndebourne’s production of The Magic Flute.

Bread and Circuses, say I. Juvenal knew how to bring the masses around to his way of thinking and if a bit of the end of the pier cheers up an audience already wilting after a fair length of recitative on a smouldering July night, so well and good.

I cannot imagine that Mellor could not have admired much of the stuff the opera is made of. Exquisite music, spine-tingling performances and set design and lighting by the best in the world. I found it one of the loveliest, funniest and most absorbing operas I have ever seen.

Sure, there were illuminated chef’s toques, musical wineglasses, 12 foot high monsters made of rusty metal, flung pancakes and as much sleight of hand as at a magician’s convention – but it all added to, not subtracted from, Mozart’s hymn of praise to the Age of Enlightenment.

Many find the narrative as complex as the Hampton Court maze. Suffice to say it’s a parable of good versus evil where true love, conquering all trials, wins in the end.

Caroline Wettergreen won a standing ovation for the end of her first aria as the Queen of the Night. Heroic poses were struck and sung magnificently by David Portillo as Pamino and Bjorn Burger. Brindley Sherratt’s deepest of deep basses reminded me of Russian Orthodox chant and heroine Pamina was simply lovely.

Okay, as local newspaper readers you might not be lining up for this year’s festival but take my advice.

Raid the holiday fund and lavish it all on just one superlative day and night. Stroll the gardens (glorious) pack a picnic, browse the shop (and the pretty little shopette in the gardens), admire the sculpture, people-watch and let the music wash over you.

Better for your soul than a spa and pamper day.

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