Die Zauberflote(The Magic Flute) may not have a story as concise as that of Don Giovanni or Cosi Fan Tutte but it has plenty of colour and imagination as well as funny, thrilling and touching moments. This Opera Australia production is a solid one if slightly disappointing compared to some of the rest of the DVD competition, being more successful from a musical point of view than a visual one. As said above, Magic Flute is colourful and imaginative when done right, to me that didn't really reflect in the sets and the staging. The sets are a little drab and in smaller ensembles looked quite empty, while the staging had its moments(mainly with Papageno and the fire and water was decent) but some of it was static and not that much of a wow factor(the serpent was a touch cheap-looking too, but that's hardly been the first time), it at least told the story coherently just with not much spark. The lighting was expressive though could have had more variety and the costumes on the whole are reasonable with the exception of Papageno, the closest he gets to a bird-catcher/man is a hat that looks like a crow. The video directing is good enough and the sound while not as resonant as one would want does nothing to hamper how good the music and singing is. The orchestra play with zest and musicality as well as a good balance between instruments and sections, and there are many emotions embedded in the music which come through very well in their playing. The chorus sing beautifully, they are not given a whole lot to do dramatically but it doesn't come across as schlock either. Richard Bonynge keeps everything together tightly while allowing Mozart's music to breathe. The performances are very good, with only Donald Shanks as an unsteady and stand-and-deliver Sarastro disappointing. Gran Wilson is a dashing Tamino with an appealingly bright timbre that is ideal for Mozart's style yet is still heard. Christa Leahmann is spine-tingling as Queen of the Night and copes remarkably with the vocal fireworks of the role, which people often find to be the most memorable one in the entire opera. John Fulford is a warm-voiced Papageno and is very funny and charming and Peta Blyth matches him as a pert Papagena. The three ladies are commanding with good blend between the voices and the three boys are adorable and sing like angels. Graeme Ewer is a characterful Monostatos, his voice is more appealing than most in the role and he doesn't overact or underplay, of all the characters in Magic Flute Monostatos is the most problematic. The best performance though was Yvonne Kenny as a radiant and incredibly poignant Pamina, and she had the most beautiful voice of the cast. Last but not least, don't let the fact that the production is in English deter you, it does feel strange but actually the translation is quite good and is easy to follow, making it accessible for younger audiences. Overall, from a visual point of view it does disappoint but from a musical point of view this Opera Australia is delightful. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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