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I was lucky on my very first day of work at the OAE to go on a ‘field-trip’ to watch a TOTS rehearsal for a brilliantly adapted production of The Magic Flute.
As part of the TOTS concert series, aimed at introducing children aged two to five to classical music, this performance reimagines the opera as A World of Magic, seeing a bird-catcher and bird trying to escape the clutches of the evil Queen of the Night, and is accompanied by some terrific acting and emphatic narration. Mozart’s original, with tropes of magic and adventure coupled with a cheery ‘happy ever after’, seems like the ideal introduction to opera for young children and we have certainly done this justice.
The question of ‘authenticity’ often crops up in relation to operatic adaptations, and this particular envisioning of one of Mozart’s best-known operas certainly poses that question. But when the performance is so captivating and engaging, even for a person in their twenties like me, it seems entirely necessary that these adaptations are made in order to keep classical music relevant and alive in so many aspects of today’s society. The quality of the music is uncompromised, and all those involved in the production treated the rehearsal with the same rigour and professionalism as if it were for a full-scale performance at an opera house. Mozart’s notes, while interspersed with an active narrative and playful acting, are very much still there, especially in ‘Pamina’s’ tragic Aria Ach ich Fühl’s which is sung in the original German vernacular.
Even so, the music is light, catchy and, above all, fun. The opportunity for the children in the audience to interact with the performers arises with almost every note of the orchestra, every question of the narrator and every movement of the singers. I have seen opera transformed into one of the best children’s stories ever, and got to listen to some truly fantastic playing along the way.
I couldn’t have wished for a better way to first witness an OAE rehearsal in action. I can only imagine as a ‘tot’ how truly magical this performance will be.
Anna Bennett, Marketing and Press Officer.
OAE TOTS A World of Magic, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre. 10.30am and 12pm. Sunday 28th April.