Mozart’s opera inextricably combines the sublime and the ridiculous, the low and the lofty.
Dominic Cooke’s dream-like surrealist production emphasizes pratfalls at the expense of profundity but still makes for a very enjoyable evening.
The colloquial English translation gave Daniel Grice’s bird-catcher Papageno – with a Grouch Marx wig and the schoolboyish demeanour of Private Pike from Dad’s Army – plenty of comic opportunities.
His firm-toned baritone combined well with the ardent soprano of Elizabeth Watts (Pamina) making their duet praising conjugal bliss truly touching and Watts brought an accomplished lieder-singer’s word-pointing to her despairing aria as she contemplated suicide.
Benjamin Hulett began a little awkwardly as Tamino – (who wouldn’t when being pursued by a giant lobster) – but grew in authority.
He possesses a pleasing lyric tenor, his aria apostrophizing Pamina’s portrait passionate but smoothly phrased.
Evil was vocally resplendent in Kathryn Lewek’s Queen of the Night, with sparkling coloratura, pinging stratospheric high notes (truly sung not squeaked) and the ability to relate them to the text.
As her moral opponent Sarastro, bass Scott Wilde had the physical stature but not the vocal amplitude to convincingly deliver Isis and Osiris, music which, as Bernard Shaw said, “would not sound out of place in the mouth of God”.
The ensemble support was fine too: including the splendidly lascivious Three Ladies and the sailor-suited (soprano) Three Boys charming on their aerial Heath Robinson bicycles.
The versatile WNO chorus were wholehearted and excellent as always and the orchestra, conducted by Simon Phillippo, gave firm support.