In July 2013 we performed Mozart’s Magic Flute at the Cambridge Junction. This was by far our most ambitious project to date – a year in the making, involving a combined cast, orchestra and production team of around 60 young people and a 7.5 metre dragon. We performed the work in a new English translation, created specially for this production.
In approaching such an iconic piece, we did not wish to stray too far from the fundamental aspects of the work. We kept the original, fairy tale setting, focussing on the themes of good and evil, of the victory of enlightened knowledge over dark magic, and of the power of music and love to overcome danger and fear.
Our translation remained close to the original, other than removing certain elements which grated on 21st century sensibilities. Sarastro’s temple certainly took a more enlightened approach to women than Schikaneder intended! In general, we aimed for a colloquial approach which would not sound awkward spoken and sung by a teenage cast. At the same time, it was important to bring out both the humour and the humanity that make the opera such a delight.
A word must also be said for the orchestra, led by Alastair Chilvers, a second year music student at Cambridge University. They performed onstage in a small, exposed ensemble and maintained a consistently high standard and a wonderful balance with the singers. This is an astonishing achievement for such a young group.
Our dedicated and talented production team ran the show completely independently, from lighting to stage management, costume and set design, and, of course, dragon building.
The production was funded by generous grants from John Lewis, Cambridgeshire Music and the Archer Foundation. Chesterton Community College provided our rehearsal venue. Many costumes were loaned by Saffron Walden Musical Theatre.