Wednesday, March 7, 2012

REVIEW: A Magic Flute by Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord

HK Academy for Performing Arts Lyric Theatre, Saturday March 3

Know more about “THE” Magic Flute and know less about “A” Magic Flute is the key on how to enjoy this Peter Brook adaptation. This production looks like a response to a task to trim down the Mozart opera to something clear and concise but cheap to produce. First of all, this kind of a challenge is hardly new, while the responses to it throughout the years come in myriad of shapes and sizes. This production, directed by Peter Brook for C.I.C.T. / Theatre des Bouffes du Nord was decent enough but hardly revelatory and definitely not revolutionary. The five-page interview in the programme did nothing to make me appreciate the amount of effort put into the work, but instead made me think of wasted resources and the usual artist spiel that tries to justify a mediocre work.

The production was not bad actually. It has that “world fusion” thing going on that made it visually interesting. The minimalist Zen-style set was made up of all sorts of bamboo sticks complete with two glamorized kuroko (stagehands in traditional Japanese theatre, who dress all in black) in the form of two black actors who also stood in as various “helps” e.g. three ladies, three boys, priests, guards. The rest of the performers were white. The performers can sing and act, but no better than what one will usually see in an opera house these days. In fact, the staging and the performers reminded me of school productions.

Australian tenor Adrian Strooper was a handsome Tamino with a voice to match. The acting-driven role of Papageno benefited the least in this adaptation but French baritone Thomas Dolie made the most of it and provided a lovable performance. Jordanian soprano Dima Bawab provided a sweet-toned but reticent Pamina. No Magic Flute can be complete without the Queen of the Night and her vocal acrobatics and soprano Malia Bendi-Merad didn’t disappoint. French/Italian bass Vincent Pavesi produced beautiful resonant low notes but sounded thin with higher registers.

A Magic Flute
After Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Freely adapted by Peter Brook, Franck Krawczyk and Marie-Hélène Estienne

Creative Team
Director: Peter Brook
Lighting: Philippe Vialatte
Piano: Rémi Atasay
Assistant to the Director: Bertrand Lesca

Cast Includes:
Tamino: Adrian Strooper
Pamina: Dima Bawab
Sarastro: Vincent Pavesi
Queen of the Night: Malia Bendi-Merad
Papageno: Thomas Dolié
Papagena: Betsabée Haas
Monostatos: Raphaël Brémard
Actors: Abdou Ouologuem, Stéphane Soo Mongo

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At March 7, 2012 at 12:42 PM , Blogger Meaghan said...

I really wanted to see this because I find Peter Brook interesting as a director. Did you ever read his book "The Empty Space"?
He's a director that loves his minimalism!

At March 7, 2012 at 1:58 PM , Blogger SATOSHI said...

HI Meaghan! You should have as I would love to read your view. The Empty Space was published in the late 60's (I believe) when minimalism as a movement "reached" the USA and visual artists like Tony Smith, Carl Andre, Donald Judd and John McCracken were associated. But even prior to the 60's in the USA and in a broader sense, the root of this can be found in Europe with Bauhaus artists and works of Piet Mondrian and Constantin Brancusi. And if one considers the world beyond the west, minimalism is antique in Japan and China. The irony of this production is the fact that it came from Peter Brook, the author of "The Empty Space".

At March 7, 2012 at 2:20 PM , Blogger Dominic Sargent said...

Beautifully written review, Satoshi. I heard a different cast with different strengths, but I think you hit the nail on the head.


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