There's a lack of magic in Opera Atelier's The Magic Flute.
In some ways that's inevitable. The fairy tale-like piece about good triumphing over evil is difficult to pull off, combining fantasy, lowbrow comedy, a bit of sexist and dated language and some of Mozart's noblest music.
Thankfully that music mostly comes through, from the treacherously high arias for the Queen of the Night (nailed by Ambur Braid, who's suitably chilly and imperious) to the playfully catchy tunes by birdcatcher Papageno (a very good Olivier LaQuerre).
Many of the other singers don't fare so well, especially Joao Fernandes's Sarastro, who lacks the power and presence to ground the opera with his bass voice. And while Colin Ainsworth and Laura Albino make an attractive, pleasant-sounding Tamino and Pamina, the two lovers whose love is tested, their chemistry doesn't come across the footlights.
What's worse, however, is how director Marshall Pynkoski has directed them to act the spoken dialogue in Andrew Porter's English translation. Rather than speak, these characters intone. There's nothing less funny than forced, arch humour.
Gerard Gauci's sets, from a colourful dragon that elicits laughs in the opening scene through to various flying contraptions, capture the whimsy and drama of the opera beautifully. I wish I could say the same about the (uncredited) costumes for the two lovers, which seem to draw inspiration from various cultures but merely look drab.
And while the Tafelmusik orchestra works hard under conductor David Fallis, a few wayward woodwind notes notwithstanding, I wish the sounds were fuller and had more texture. They're lost, like much of the original spirit of Mozart's opera, in the big Elgin space.