A semi-staged opera early in the Summer Term is now a firm fixture in Shrewsbury’s musical calendar. This year we were treated to Mozart’s late masterpiece The Magic Flute, premiered on 30th September 1791 two months before the composer’s death at the age of 36.
The delightfully preposterous plot, a battle between good and evil, love and hate, with the birdcatcher ingénu Papageno, engagingly sung by Ben Lloyd, caught up in forces of light and darkness way beyond his control, was easy to follow with the aid of a voiceover provided by Kathryn Turpin who, together with fellow singing teacher Jonathan May and Director of Music John Moore, had coached and directed the singers.
As ever, the two performances were a feast for the ears and eyes. With several of the cast doubled over the two nights so as to give more pupils experience of opera, it is not really practicable to mention each individual singer by name, but the four ‘Shrewsbury’ principals, the birdcatcher Papageno (Ben Lloyd), the heroine Pamina (Sophia Price), the simian villain Monostatos (Ohin Cheng) and the High Priest Sarastro (Angus Warburg) clearly understood their parts and sang superbly well alongside the two professional singers needed for the highly technical roles of the Queen of the Night (Rita Wood) and Tamino (Michael Gibson). And mention must also be made of Papagena, coquettishly sung and acted by Mary Lees, the ancient crone who is magically transformed into a nubile bride-to-be for Papageno in one of Mozart’s most enchantingly witty arias.
Two hours of heavenly music slipped by, with the tireless John Moore accompanying at the piano. Tribute should also be paid to Third Former Jake Ludlam whose technical expertise was reflected in some very atmospheric lighting.
It was lovely to be able to go home once again reassured that the rich stream of superb young voices which has characterised Shrewsbury in the past few years remains unabated.