Emanuel Schikaneder

WNO sinks an unsinkable opera: The Magic Flute, at Birmingham Hippodrome, reviewed

As stage directions go, the The Magic Flute opens with a zinger. ‘Tamino enters from the right wearing a splendid Japanese hunting costume.’ That’s right, a Japanese hunting costume. What does that even look like? More to the point, what would a Viennese theatrical costume designer in 1791 have thought it looked like? Surviving evidence suggests that the answer was ‘nothing on Earth’, which is handy because it gives subsequent interpreters a huge amount of licence. Schikaneder’s rag-bag libretto has its quirks and non sequiturs, but it’s an astonishingly robust piece of theatre. I’ve seen The Magic Flute done as panto, as manga, as gothic fantasy and as 1970s British