RomaEuropa Festival 2011: Peter Brook's 'A Magic Flute' at Teatro Argentina

The 2011 edition of the RomaEuropa Festival, which embraces not only the visual arts, but also dance, film, theatre, music and performance art, is entitled “Try the impossible”. Peter Brook, the British theatre director renowned for thinking outside the box, would certainly seem to fit the bill with his utterly captivating reinvention of Mozart's most magical opera Die Zauberflöte. In Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne's adaptation the title is no longer “The” Magic Flute of the original, but “A” Magic Flute instead – a less-is-more exploration of the opera, reduced to just seven essential singing roles and two actors, accompanied by composer Franck Krawczyk's arrangements on a single piano. Performed barefoot on a virtually bare stage - the scenery is evoked through bamboo poles which are moved as needed to create the idea of prison bars, tree branches, or temple walls – this is a brilliantly simple, yet highly effective production.

The musical numbers are sung in the original German, whilst the spoken dialogue is delivered in French - with subtitles in Italian – and the cast is an international mix of talented young singers and actors, who perform on rotation during the various evenings. On the Thursday evening performance I attended Australian tenor Adrian Strooper and Turkish-Dutch soprano Aylin Sezer were just perfect as the innocent lovers Tamino and Pamina, coloratura soprano Malia Bendi-Merad was a wonderfully restrained Queen of the Night, whilst bass Vincent Pavesi was an imposing Sarastro.

Without doubt, however, it was Thomas Dolié as Papageno, a fine baritone and great comic actor, and Dima Bawab as Papagena, who delighted the audience most, eliciting a round of spontaneous applause after their duet.

A final mention should also go to the charismatic actor Abdou Ouologuem – his sleight-of-hand “magic” opens and closes A Magic Flute and his elegant presence gently guides the players from one scene to the next.


Un Flauto Magico (A Magic Flute) continues at Teatro Argentina until 27 November, 2011.