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Grimeborn Festival 2013, Arcola Theatre Dalston

This small scale Magic Flute in the Grimeborn Festival 2013 at Dalston, delighted the packed press night audience, which was arrayed closely to left and right of the small acting space.

Christopher Glynn and his small band, invisible underneath the gallery to those who chose that vantage point, kept it moving at just the right tempo, and one felt sorry for people unable to watch his deft directing, which had to cope with the deserved applause after nearly every item.

There was no feeling of loss for the missing instruments from a fully scored account in major opera houses; fewer these days with period orchestras than in c.1950 when I enjoyed a dress rehearsal by Furtwangler in Salzburg at which four Queen of the Night's Ladies were still competing for the three parts...

The acoustics at Arcola were good, in that the cast, often just a few feet away, didn't moderate their tone and one didn't wish they had done so.

The mini-ensembles of the Queen's ladies, boys (girls) and Sarastro's disciples were well selected, the three ladies especially well cast and popular with the audience. There was a sense of sly, complicit fun which was irresistible, yet the trials in the second act had a full weight of seriousness led by the youthful and dignified Sarastro, whose sonorous bass, which had no problem in the depths, as likewise did his royal counterpart deliver her coloratura with confidence.

With a few more years development, Anna Rajah should be taking her rare skills to major opera houses here and abroad. I admired the rapport of lovers Ben Thapa and Helen Bailey, forcibly separated most of the time; Helen expressed in perfectly phrased arias the intensity of anguish imposed by her mother. For the Trials, we did not miss the semblances of fire and water and shared the couple's relief when their ordeals ended, nicely counterpointed by Scout Papageno and his pretty lttle eponymous Girl Guide. Monostotos was the more menacing for beng excused the usual blacking up, and John Warrack's translation, perfectly audible throughout, enhanced our involvement, with no one missing the German original.

Moments like when the animals were forced to dance were choreographed simply and cleverly by Nina Brazier and Abigail Kessler, and the whole Creative Team collaborated to make this a memorable Flute for us and doubtless for all the participants.

This production might well be considered (quickly !) for a DVD, to set alongside those from major productions. A live filming at the Arcola would make its mark comparable to those emanating from Shakespeare's Globe without scenery. We were forbidden to photograph for "copyright" reasons (?) which begin to feel anachronistic in these times of silent invisible filming; some short clips for YouTube would begin to put the enterprising Ryedale Festival Opera and Arcola Theatre on the map?

Peter Grahame Woolf

The photo above, the only one I've seen, comes from Evening Standard, whose review stance is diametrically opposite to ours.