The Magic Flute review: The ENO’s radical reimagining of Mozart’s opera has lost none of its power

English National Opera joins forces with theatre company Complicite for a mesmerising spin on an old classic

Michael Church
Thursday 29 February 2024 13:26 GMT
David Stout (Papageno) and the cast of ENO’s ‘The Magic Flute’
David Stout (Papageno) and the cast of ENO’s ‘The Magic Flute’ (Manuel Harlan)

Watching the premiere of this production in 2012, the audience just sat there open-mouthed with surprise and delight. Never had a Mozart opera – or any opera – been purveyed in this way, upside down and inside out, so that one never knew what was reality, what was conjured up by video projections, and what was the result of absurdly simple props artfully deployed.

A flock of white doves? No, just the cast making magic with sheets of A4 paper. But such was the suggestive power of this collaboration between English National Opera and international theatre company Complicite that one unquestioningly bought into their fantasy.

Over the past decade, other directors have followed this lead – most notably Yaël Farber, with her searing production of King Lear currently playing at the Almeida Theatre. But now that the ENO/Complicite Flute is in revival, it’s worth recalling the thinking behind it.

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