Mozart can do no wrong.
It’s not even up for debate.
When I was knee-high to an etc., I went with my parents to Austria, visiting Salzburg along the way and so to the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The actual birthplace – the house.
My Dad, a professional pianist, was keen to fulfill an important pilgrimage, and so off our family did troop to the threshold of what had become a museum.
My diminutive stature gave me away as being of the child variety and my parents were told I was too young to go in.
I mean I’ve seen Amadeus and know some of Wolfie’s antics were a touch saucy, but surely nothing could be behind those doors which could cause untold anguish and trauma to a 5 year old (I know really it was more likely that I’d touch a manuscript here, a glockenspiel there, or something).
Anyway my Dad went it alone and some 20 odd years later on a repeat visit, I was finally granted access to the place where one of our greatest composers and musicians made his debut onto the world’s stage
Now the main reason for this preamble is that when I was to visit the house all those years later, as enraptured as I was to be in such an important place, my overriding memory will always be the hugely sinister mannequins in the doorway whose faces were superimposed with the holographic faces of Opera singers treating us to some of Mozart’s finest work – on this occasion, The Magic Flute.
The audio and of course the music was wonderful. The spectacle was nothing short of terrifying.
And so what a contrast to the beautiful production of said opera, brought to the Lowry Theatre by the wonderful Opera North.
The Magic Flute follows the adventures of Prince Tamino (Kang Wang) as he sets off on a quest to rescue Pamina (Vuvu Mpofu) from the clutches of Sarastro – the Priest of the Sun.
The score, of course, will set any rendition off on the right foot but you need the vocals, the musicians, the aesthetic, the acting and the heart of the production to live upto the music – no mean feat.
Just before curtain up, we were informed that male lead, Kang Wang, was suffering a cold and hoped that it didn’t affect our enjoyment. It did not. It really did not. My ear did not detect anything that wasn’t moving, rousing, tuneful and respectful to the piece – goodness knows how he sounds when at full health!
I do not know of the health of female lead, Vuvu Mpofu, but going off her performance, I would say ‘a clean bill’. Spirited, passionate and spectacular.
The orchestra, conducted by Robert Howarth, were both a sight and sound to behold – my elevated position in the circle treated me to the privilege of being to watch the musicians as they performed and felt the score in front of them.
Whilst one could sit back, shut one’s eyes and be taken to a place of joy by the sounds alone, one should really see this production with eyes open (and one should really stop with the ‘one’ thing now).
The visual beauty of the colours, the floral projections and the striking costumes complimented the audio beauty perfectly.
It wasn’t all flowers and birdsong – and speaking of which – there was humour too, brought to us by the wonderful bird-catcher himself, Papageno, with a witty performance from Gavan Ring, bringing the light relief (and a touch of the Irish) to the production.
There was also the early appearance of two huge…tentacles(?)…akin to something out of Beetlejuice and in danger of competing with the unearthly Salzburg mannequins for the ‘Most likely to give me a Mozart-themed nightmare’ award.
Putting my inner-psyche aside, for one moment, this new production, directed by James Brining and designed by Colin Richmond, brought a treat to the senses to all in Salford that evening.
Special mention to the theatre staff who let me in.
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