There are many reasons to look forward to David McVicar's lovely take on The Magic Flute, now being revived at Covent Garden. Statuesque Kate Royal sings Pamina, ebullient Christopher Maltman sings Papageno, and that irresistible soubrette Anna Devin incarnates Papagena, but the most interesting casting is Joseph Kaiser as Tamino, the sweet boy who falls in love with a face in a painting and undergoes Herculean trials to get his girl. Tamino is often presented as a pale, two-dimensional character, but this Canadian tenor – a larger-than-life figure with a gale-force personality– will have none of it.
"His emotional journey is just harder than those of the others to track. For him it's a coming of age, without anybody else's help. I wouldn't say I'm a lot like him, but I can relate to his excitement at feeling love for the first time – and feeling scared and disoriented by it."
He's sung this role all over the world, but the man who helped him pinpoint its essence was not an opera director at all: it was Kenneth Branagh, with his acclaimed film adaptation.
"That was the most fun, and the hardest professional experience of my life," says Kaiser. "I have a lot of energy, and it was a huge challenge to distil and refine it down for the camera, so it became just a small movement, or a whisper – with Ken saying, if it's real, we'll keep it, but if it's not, we'll do it again. And we repeatedly did it again. Everyone cared so much as a result – nobody wanted to do a half-arsed job."
With a benchmark like this, the supremely self-confident McVicar will be finding he has a lot to live up to.
'The Magic Flute' at ROH, London WC2 (www.roh.org.uk) from 1 February