Magical Night, Linbury Studio, London
Sunday 18 December 2011
The discovery of a long-lost item from a composer's early output is not always a cue to get excited. There may be a reason why the score was so carelessly mislaid, and Kurt Weill's Die Zaubernacht, written six years before The Threepenny Opera, is a case in point.
It's an oddity, billed as a "children's pantomime" at its Berlin premiere in 1922, and hanging on a story about two children whose toys come to life in the night, yet uncompromising in its lack of anything that could be construed as a tune. The score also suffers the peculiar imbalance of being purely instrumental for 55 of its 60 minutes, but lumbered with a single operatic aria at the start.
That said, in Magical Night, under the aegis of Covent Garden's adventurous second string ROH2, the director- choreographer Aletta Collins has done a lively salvage job. The work's edges are softened by setting the story in a bedroom strewn with the tacky accoutrements of modern childhood: cartoon duvet covers, posters and plastic toys (design by Rachael Canning) – as far from the ribbon-trimmed nostalgia of The Nutcracker as could be. The kids are no angels either, plaguing their mother with their mess and squabbles.
The toys are characterised with wit and charm. Chimpy (Thomasin Gulgec), a woolly monkey with a frayed patch where his tail once was, moves in smooth, Capoeira handsprings, joyously athletic. Tumble Tot (Alessandra Ruggeri) is a boneless baby who flumps on to her amply nappied bottom with comical regularity. Owen Ridley-DeMonick's Mighty Robot is suitably dim, Greig Cooke's Sir Green Knight subtly pathetic, brandishing his sword but baffled by today's world. Soprano Yvette Bonner's girl-power Pink Fairy strives tirelessly to keep this bumbling crew in hand, but there's not quite enough story – until Lorena Randi's Roald Dahl-ish witch arrives threatening a menu of boy stew – to make this night truly magical.
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