Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Nature mirrors art at garden opera festival

Nature mirrors art at garden opera festival

The Magic Flute | Waterperry Opera Festival | Thursday, July 25

FOR a second year Waterperry House and Gardens are hosting an opera festival, and judging by the very warm reception and the full house for Mozart’s The Magic Flute on the opening night, the festival company is right to be planning several years ahead for future seasons.

This is an outdoor performance in an amphitheatre, miniature but Roman-style, with the audience sitting on the stone steps — don’t worry, cushions are provided.

One of Mozart’s most playful and mysterious operas, The Magic Flute benefits from the beautiful location which Waterperry provides.

The plot is both silly and serious. Prince Tamino attempts to rescue Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night, from the clutches of the apparently evil high priest, Sarastro. Tamino is accompanied by Papageno, a comic birdcatcher who is really out to catch a wife.

But Sarastro’s temple is not a fortress, rather a place of spirituality and enlightenment. Tamino and Pamina will eventually join the brotherhood after undergoing tests and trials of their love and obedience.

Papageno fails the same tests but he’s granted his wife-to-be — Papagena — all the same.

A young cast, singing in English, make clear the complications of the story with vivid and energetic performances, ranging from the famous high notes of the Queen of the Night (Eleanor Penfold) as she invokes vengeance to the sonorous bass tones of Sarastro (Tristan Hambleton).

Nicholas Morton and Stephanie Henshaw offer an engaging Papageno/a, while the principal lovers, John Porter and Isabelle Peters, convey the depths of their passion and occasional despair. A trio of talented children act as guides to the bewildered lovers.

The 13-strong orchestra, placed above and behind the action, is under the able direction of Bertie Baignet. This thoughtful and very enjoyable production of The Magic Flute is directed by Laura Attridge.

The appearances of the Queen of the Night, the dark force set against the enlightened Sarastro, were heralded by claps of stage thunder.

On a sultry summer evening in Waterperry gardens real thunder rumbled in the distance and a few drops of rain fell during the first act. Nature joined art.

Until Sunday (July 28). For tickets and times, visit

Philip Gooden

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