live revieWs

OPERA The Magic Flute Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Wed 16 Sep

One could be forgiven for thinking that Christmas had come rather sooner than expected when settling into watching Scottish Opera’s Magic Flute. This revival of Martin Duncan's 1992 production seems to have diverted Mozart's opera down the route marked pantomime. Serpents like elongated curvy draught excluders and cartoon-type figures which would make respectable rivals for Teletubbies are all very well and good, but serve the piece at a very superficial level. Such effects may play for - and get lots of laughs, but is this really the best way to reveal Mozart's own wit in his use of Schikaneder’s text and the deep potency of the music he sets it to?

Magic Flute tells the tale, Oriental in origin, of Prince Tamino. He falls in love with Pamina but has to jump through several hoops, which are provided courtesy of the brotherhood (aka. the Freemasons), before they can finally be united. Overall there is an underlying lightness of touch to the production which is undoubtedly attractive, if perhaps not done best justice in this performance. On opening night, the orchestra, under the baton of Richard Farnes, lacked its usual crisp bite. Detail disappeared before it left the pit in the overture and the young cast would have gained extra confidence from firmer orchestral support at just about any given point.

As Papageno, the bird-catcher in ridiculous feathery outfit with matching headgear (there are an inordinate number of crazy hats in this production), Scottish baritone David Stephenson brought a natural sense of comic timing to the spoken dialogue and well focused, extremely reliable singing. Pamina, in Nicola Howard’s portrayal, was appropriately vulnerable, if a little too

Dean Robinson and Nicola Howard as Sarastro and Pamina respectively

earnest, while Wynne Evans, as Tamino, became more and more untainted as he successfully completed all the initiation ordeals to be accepted to the brotherhood, not even distracted by the half-cut trouser legs along the way.

Of the rest of the cast, the three ladies in tight-fitting black were terrific, although their boss, Christine Bufer as the Queen of the Night, was not on top form on this particular night. Sarastro too didn't have just the right voice, Dean Robinson not being quite the deep-throat gritty bass that sounds so good in this role. The chorus, although not that busy, did sing well and through their stage movements enhanced greatly the seam of symbolism that pervades the opera. (Carol Main)

Further performances are at Glasgow Theatre Royal, 23, 26, 29 Sep, .7, 3 Oct, 3, 5 Nov, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 78, 20 Nov

The Manic Street Preachers: telling their truth


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313$: what made this such a good concert

It was a Wise decision its tracks like 'Faster' which get the biggest cheers, the spiked anarchy of James Dean Bradfield’s guitar triggering pogo parties in the pit before ending as suddenly and expiosivefy as it began 'Frorn Despair Tc: Where skids straight into 'f\’l()l(i\.'‘ Junk' x.-~.-i‘_ht‘iut pausing tit wring the sweat from its torn T-shirt It's at pomts like this that the lc‘ianics are closest to their heroes The Clash, With Bradfield and Nicky Wire iisking their family allowance and attempting simultaneous SCISSOT jumps

And then just when the adrenalin is pumping, they Crank up the dirge-like

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"tilt-rate 'i :, Ytti' 'C-lrilciren Will Be No i ' t an unusual step but lf‘i‘f“, :i‘. I've '."«:llli fashion, this entire concert doesn't quite follow

coir-rentional form

When bands piit out new albums and

tour to prorrmfi-

, they usually

play hefty chunks of their new naterial Over a twenty song set, the Manic's play five tracks from This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours The other fifteen are a healthy cross-section encompassing the best bits from the rest of their career Perhaps they think that the slow burn qualities of the new stuff isn't suited to a live setting, perhaps the fact,that no American record company has decided to pick up their new album in the States has influenced them, perhaps only playing five songs from This Is My Truth is

'S YMlvl’ With its chords like funeral bells The effect is like interrupting a wedding party to announce that the bride has cancer.

Thankfully, this is the exception to the rule and although it looks as though they've bludgeoned the concert onto the ropes, they come back With a crowd-pleasing 'Motorcycle Empt- iness’ By the time they eXit With the knockOut trio of ’Everything Must Go', ’You Love Us' and 'A Design For Life', the night is theirs.

(Jonathan Trew)

live reviews MUSIC

Astrid at er s 9:

Edinburgh: La Belle Angele, Thu 17 Sep

Depending on the state of your love life and your inherent levels of cynicism, concerts that make the couples in the audience cuddle together are either cioying mush or, more rarely, genurnely touching. In the case of this concert and at the unaccustomed risk of being accused of sensitiVity, we shall have to make an exception to the rule and plump for the latter,

Astrid is a woman who comes from Shetland. She used to be in a band called Goya Dress Now she’s gone solo and has a backing band made up of former members of Stranglove Astrid sings songs about, among other things, love Sometimes the songs are melancholy like her lover has just set off on some months-long journey, sometimes her songs are ecstatic as though she’s only just fallen in love and is full of that innocent joy that precedes the ineVitable mundanity. ‘Hozanna’ her new single is like that a huge tumultuous rush that almost falls over itself it's so perky

Elsewhere her songs range from the rootsy to the rocky When she wants, Astrid can do a mean line in sultriness and sings the sort of songs where if her voice had a colour it would be blue Occasionally, she has a brief flirtation With Americana and her VOICC asSumes that slight prairie twang that makes writers reach for the thesaurus and look up similes for ‘wide open spaces

She can switch from the sonorous and haunting to the high-pitched and breathy as evmceo' on the song 'lf You See The Man' Evcry l‘v’)\.V and then she even pulls out an harmonica and injects a spot of chirpy miaowmg

In short, she is extremely versatile You wocild call her stuff a great example of mature song writing but that makes it socind mind-numbingly dull Which it isn't Instead, let's call it fresh and refreshing and predict that before long Astrid Will be causing couples to cuddle in much bigger venues llonathan Trew)

Astrid: cuddle instigator

j STARRAUNGS an: as :4: Unmissable a my 9. Very ood 2. ~32- Wort a shot :3 Below average it :3; You’ve been warned

24 Sep—8 Oct 1998 THE LIST 43