Short potted history of The London Coliseum.
It is a theatre in St. Martin's Lane, central London. It was designed by the theatre architect, Frank Matcham for the impresario Oswald Stoll. Their ambition was to build the largest and finest music hall, described as the 'people's palace of entertainment' of its age and the most luxurious family variety theatre of its time. It opened on 24 December 1904 as the London Coliseum Theatre of Varieties. However, it was initially a failure, closing down after just two years. It re-opened in 1907 and then became a success.
It was given listed status in 1960 by English Heritage, who described it as an 'Edwarian Theatre de Luxe of London' with its vast 3-tier auditorium and wealth of classical detail of Byzantine grandeur. That opulence is still evident after the refurbishment carried out in 2004.
The Sadler's Wells Opera Company moved there in 1968. In 1974 they changed their name to become the English National Opera.They bought the freehold of the building for £12.8 million in 1992. The London Coliseum is still the home of the English National Opera.
Back to The Magic Flute:
My husband and I had no preconceived ideas of how the production would be staged. I found the simplicity of the drawbridge platform with a projector on one side of the stage and a sound effect booth on the other surprisingly engaging. It was exciting to see the artist drawing the scenery that was projected onto various screens and watch the sound master create the sound effects concurrently with the production. Furthermore, it gave an added sense of a production evolving in-front of your eyes. I overheard someone on the way out lamenting about the lack of magic in the staging but personally I found the simplicity enabled me to focus more on the story-line and music without getting lost in lots of frilly detailed backdrops and props.
Another wonderful part of the experience was the ability to see the orchestra clearly in the raised pit and witness the skill of the conductor bringing Mozart's wonderful score to life. I experienced the magic of the production through the music.
A potted summary of The Magic Flute.
It is a lighthearted fairy tale. The noble prince, Tamino, is ordered by the mysterious Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter, a beautiful princess called Pamina. She has been kidnapped by Sarastro, who we initially think is evil but turns out to be a good guy. The Queen of the Night (who we find out later is a baddie) gives Tamino a magic flute to help him on his quest. The flute represents the power of music to sustain us during times of turmoil. Tamino has a comic partner Papageno, a bird-catcher, who is always human and accessible to the audience. Tamino undergoes various tests of virtue and eventually wins Pamina's hand.
The message of the opera is 'Wisdom and Love win the day'.
The sun bathed in splendor.
Has vanquished the night.
The dark cries surrender.
To wisdom and light.
Hail the pair emerging
Valiant and victorious
From trials undergone.
See, see sunlight rising glorious!
Greet, greet the coming of dawn.
With passion and reason
No longer at war,
May kindness and wisdom
My husband enjoys listening to a vast array of music from Baroque to Opera to Rock. In fact he has a bit of a CD buying addiction and we have to constantly add to his music storage for his ever expanding collection. We both share a passion for music and it is something we enjoy as a couple.
At the beginning of October last year I decided that it would be a great 50th birthday treat to book him tickets for The Magic Flute. He has enjoyed listening to it over the years but neither of us have seen it as a live performance. I enlisted the help of my parents who agreed to come and keep an eye on the children overnight. I booked a mid-range hotel right in the centre of West End London life, next to Piccadilly Circus and a few streets away from the London Coliseum. We both looked forward to our outing; a rare overnight treat and finally, a chance to see The Magic Flute brought to life.
The Magic Flute Facts: It was the last opera Mozart composed. It premiered on 30th September 1791 and Mozart conducted the orchestra himself. He died about 3 months later.
Edwardian and Byzantine Features
Our outing was booked many months ago and we could not have foreseen the need for my husband to book a last minute flight to be with his grieving friend in the USA. Life is unpredictable and showing love to friends and family in times of crisis is an important way to provide support.
Lingering Final Message
Also, we both love London and enjoy discovering snippets of London history and learning about the different iconic buildings of London, both old and new.
The Magic Flute Programme