Tuesday, 2nd November was Purple Tuesday, a day when shoppers and browsers with disabilities were catered for even more than usual. To add a cherry to the icing on the cake, Opera North performed their abridged version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute to entertain passers by in the Victoria Quarter.

The setting was stupendous with the arcade spruced up for the Festive Season and the sunny weather highlighting the stained glass in the entrance and roof. This was Leeds at its best.

I reviewed this version of Mozart’s opera on its first performance in the car park of Holbeck Working Men’s Club where the wonderful Slung Low is situated. This rather more salubrious setting, no offence Holbeck, marked the final presentation so the symmetry appealed to my personality.

Appropriately the work has been turned into a fable highlighting the perils of our abusing the planet. The birds had disappeared, killed to provide a feather coat for the Queen of the Night, i.e. the mass consumer, and the forest destroyed by the dragon, big business. It was left to the audience, Joe Public, to put the situation right. Let’s hope that the world leaders who were attending COP26 in Glasgow at the same time as this performance have as much success as the good people of Leeds in this respect.

L to R Timothy Nelson, Nicholas Watts and Emily Loftus. The backdrop contains rubbish to signify the state of the planet, but it is reversed to show colourful flowers when the dragon has been defeated.

Just because this is a thirty-minute version doesn’t mean that it was a cheap and nasty affair. The singers were the cream of Opera North’s roster; the tenor, Nicholas Watts played Prince Tamino; baritone Timothy Nelson was Papageno and the delightful soprano Emily Loftus sang the parts of the demure Pamino, the prince’s love interest, and then summoned up her over the top TOWIE Queen of the Night. The acting and singing was excellent as was the accordion accompaniment of Mikoš Milivojević, a true unsung – literally – hero.

Mikoš Milivojevic

It was great to see the number of casual passers by who took a seat or stood round the periphery to experience this work. Some stayed for the duration and others for a few minutes but I am sure that they all got something from their unexpected trip to the opera. The applause at the end showed just how much it was appreciated.

At the end of the piece the performers had made themselves available to chat with those present and, once the rush had died down I asked how they enjoyed the setting. Their response was very favourable except they were a little concerned about the acoustics and whether they should have been wearing microphones. I was able to assure them that the sound was crystal clear. Something which struck me later, and I wish it had occurred to me at the time, was that I imagine this will have been the first time that most of the audience will have heard trained voices without electronic amplification. Even in small spaces such as pubs, singers use mics so I wonder how many actually realised that the superbly strong voices had no augmentation whatsoever. It is something which always amazes me.

Sadly you won’t be able to see this Whistle Stop Magic Flute now that the tour has come to an end, but a couple of years ago Opera North did a Whistle Stop Marriage of Figaro so, with any luck there might be a third incarnation. If there is, I’ll be there!

Please go to https://tyke-it-to-the-limit.com/2021/06/16/whistle-stop-opera-the-magic-flute-recycled/ if you want to read my original review To see what else Opera North are up to then it is https://www.operanorth.co.uk/

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