Bewitched and beguiled: The Magic Flute triumphs at Longborough

  • The Magic Flute
  • The Magic Flute; Image - Matthew Williams-Ellis
  • The Magic Flute; Image - Matthew Williams-Ellis
  • The Magic Flute; Image - Matthew Williams-Ellis
  • The Magic Flute; Image - Matthew Williams-Ellis
  • Longborough Festival Opera
  • Longborough Festival Opera

First-class opera to be found in the depths of the Cotswold countryside as the LFO’s production of Mozart’s perennial favourite charms and captivates a packed house

Rich, sonorous harmonies, fault-free solos and more than a dash of humour await you at the Cotswolds’ very own festival opera. Renowned for its Wagnerian repertoire, the country house opera experience at Longborough is definitely one for the (Cotswold) bucket list. 

And 2017’s season does not disappoint. Over the course of three months this summer, the LFO showcases four operas, one of which is Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Last night’s opening performance of this joyful, melodious spectacle was staged in front of a full house, one that is very much supportive of what the LFO’s owners, Martin and Lizzie Graham, are setting out to achieve. Indeed, it is clear from the appreciative murmurs and rousing cheers that many of the audience have been coming to Longborough for several years and may well catch more than one opera per season.

With Anthony Negus conducting, the bar is set high from the start. The music is at times incredibly familiar but also surprisingly atmospheric and moving, providing the framework for the comedic plot of The Magic Flute. Simple yet effective staging and lighting effects (thanks to designer Ruth Paton) allow the fairytale setting to really sing. And sing they do, in world-class style.

The birdcatcher, Papageno, steals the show whenever he’s on stage. Grant Doyle’s rich bass is at times playful, coy, childish and yet utterly charming – and you are willing him on to be finally rewarded with his ideal match, the beautiful Papagena. Lovebirds Tamino (Julian Hubbard) and Pamina (Beate Mordal) are thwarted, too, at various stages throughout the two acts in their quest to be together – a vengeful Queen of the Night, a high priest and his fiercely loyal brotherhood conspire to stand in their way – but they successfully survive the initiation trials they encounter and love wins through in the end.

You cannot help but fall in love with the way they ‘do’ opera at Longborough. You arrive in time for a glass of bubbly at the bar before the performance starts, you are then royally entertained during the first half, the 90-minute interval allows you to set your picnic out in quintessential English style on the beautifully maintained, luscious lawns (weather-permitting), and you then return for the second half, refreshed and ready to sigh and chuckle at appropriate moments. 

This is an experience not to be missed. This year’s season may be almost sold out but do check the LFO’s website and social media for any returns. There’s always next year, of course, so book early!

The Magic Flute runs from 13th – 22nd July. 

Photos: Matthew Williams-Ellis