Magic Flute

The champagne was flowing when the Royal Theatre last Thursday celebrated its 10-year anniversary of Operaen, the Copenhagen Opera House. Whilst the debate rages on as to whether or not the building has been worthwhile, all that was put to one side as the queen and the prince consort along with dignitaries from the political scene and a host of other guests made the premiere of Mozart’s 'The Magic Flute' a glamourous occasion.

A tale of paradoxes
Set in a fantasy world akin to Shakespeare’s 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', the opera is a tale full of contrasts and paradoxes: night vs day, the rational world vs the irrational and the blurred lines between good and evil.

Historically a comedy, at times it comes across as a serious drama awash with religious symbolism, abstract themes and the philosophical musings of the nature of mankind. Other times, the opera – technically a sangspiel, a mixture of song and spoken word – has a childlike quality to it and more than lives up its comedic reputation with slapstick humour and lines bordering on the vulgar. Perhaps at its core, 'The Magic Flute' is about man’s struggle to find love and attain wisdom, but that is of course open to interpretation.

Set on a stunning stage
For his production, Swiss director Marco Arturo Marelli has created a visual aesthetic insinuating a timeless world. Here characters come dressed in a wide array of styles from baroque-esque dresses to suits, workers uniforms and leather coats. Taking full advantage of Operaen’s modern stage, Marelli has designed an organically flowing set with towering walls on a rotating stage.

On one side we have the natural world ruled by the Queen of the Night, painted in dark blue colours. The other side painted in yellow symbolises the scientific/rational world ruled by Sarastro and his order of priests. And, to further illustrate the contrasting worlds, mathematic formulae are scribbled across the walls on one side, with colourful feather-like drawings covering the other – no doubt a nod to Papageno, the jovial bird catcher.

Connecting the two worlds is a corridor located in the middle space of the stage, and by utilising catwalks on either side of the stage and in front of the orchestra, Marelli enables the soloists to get intimate with the audience as well as take full advantage of the space Operaen provides.

More than up to the task
'The Magic Flute' runs long at three hours, and it has been known as such to cause a few yawns during the latter stages. But here the director does his most to prevent this by invoking all of the audience’s senses through the utilisation of pyrotechnic and other light effects, whilst using the orchestra’s full potential through various sound effects.

Music is perhaps the main reason for which we attend operas and for the premiere, conductor Rory McDonald does a solid job of bringing Mozart’s composition to life without ever excelling. During some of the musical pieces it felt a bit underwhelming, but the soloists on the night more than made up for it with fantastic performances. Peter Lodahl as leading man Tamino, was a calm stage presence and provided crisp tenor vocals, and crowd favourite Papageno, played by Palle Knudsen, had the audience in stitches with his acting, but was equally adept when his baritone vocals were called upon.

A special mention however goes to Burcu Uyar for her performance as the Queen of the Night. Her second aria is notoriously known for its difficulty, and with the entire opera being – somewhat unfairly – graded against how well it performs, it was great to see she was not found wanting, with the audience quick to acknowledge this.

During its two and a half month long run, 'The Magic Flute' will chop and change its soloist line-up along with its musical direction. This will inevitably give each night a slightly different feel from the rest, but based on the premiere this felt like a refreshing take on a classic and one which I would happily recommend.

The Magic Flute


The current run of The Magic Flute will continue at the Operaen Store Scene until March 29. There are performances on January 23, 28 and 31, six more in February, and nine more in March. Tickets range in cost from 125-895 kroner. The performance is three hours. Find out more at