Welsh National Opera's 2005 version of The Magic Flute may not be to everyone's taste, but it's an intriguing production nevertheless.
The Freemasonry links are obvious enough: the action takes place on a raised boxed set (closed society) with doors in groups of three (Masonic symbolism) on all sides.
But it goes much further, as Dominic Cooke and Julian Crouch, director and designer respectively, have turned the opera into a phantasmagoria of weird imagery. Tamino's serpent has become a giant lobster; the priests' chorus appears as bowler-hatted heads which pop up through holes in the floor; and the three Genii take to the air on a flying bicycle like something out of E.T.
Such visual wackiness (does the Queen of the Night really have to be despatched down a pantomime hole?) tends to obscure, rather than enhance, the work's central message of humanity and moral virtue. Some may regard it as plain silly.
Musically, though, there are undoubted strengths. The opera is well acted and sung, and the WNO Orchestra, here conducted by Gareth Jones, plays Mozart's wonderful score with an airy vitality that always foregrounds important woodwind figuration.
Neal Davies makes an affable Papageno, Russell Thomas a vocally quite muscular Tamino, and Laure Meloy a welcomingly expressive (for a coloratura soprano) Queen. On Tuesday her showpiece aria, if not entirely accurate, certainly impressed with its brittle focus.
Vocal star of the show is undoubtedly Rebecca Evans as Pamina. Her big Act 2 aria provides the emotional heart of the piece, and is delivered with a poignancy and unforced shaded tone that many will find utterly captivating.