We have all had to live with the Corona virus for the past twenty months and we have got used to the restrictions and the masks. There will come a time, in a few decades and the following centuries, when it will be remembered as a major historical event to rival the two World Wars and even 14th century’s Black Death.
But despite the arts suffering so greatly from the shutdowns, there have been silver linings. The current Van Gogh Museum exhibition is a result of the curators looking inward to see what they already had on the premises and the Orkest van de Achttiende Eeuw’s Mozart in the Time of Covid is all about a planned production of Die Zauberflöte which is thwarted by the dreaded virus. Subtitled Die Zauberflöte & Die Schauspieldirektorin it is all about the afore mentioned Schauspieldirektorin (theatre director), splendidly played by Roberta Alexander auditioning singers for her new production of . . .err . . . Die Zauberflöte. One by one the singers are summoned by a bell to do their audition piece from the Mozart opera. First up were Ilse Eerens who sang Pamina and Jeroen de Vaal who did a fine rendition of Tamino’s Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön, quickly followed by Papageno’s Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja very nicely sung by Henk Neven.
It is rare in a concert of any type for a double bass player to be featured, but for Ich möchte wohl der Kaiser sein! Margaret Urquhart was summoned into the spotlight to accompany Berend Eijkhout’s excellent and animated enactment of the song by the end of which the orchestra were all on their feet dancing round enjoying the fun. The first half was ended abruptly when the Direktorin announced that the auditions were over and the production had been cancelled due to the dreaded Covid-19. Quelle horreur!
The fun continued at the beginning of the second half with several members of the orchestra being given percussion duties for a rousing German Dance No. 6.
This was followed by Katherine Dain’s first appearance. She was late for the auditions but nevertheless gave an excellent L’Amero from Il re pastore (The Shepherd King). But from now on the show was very much an ensemble piece with all the singers on stage for most of the time. Jan-Willem Schaafsma acted as a mediator when the two contenders for the leading soprano role, Ms Dain and Anne Sophie Petit, went into diva mode, almost coming to blows.
Kenneth Montgomery was, as usual, at the helm of the always brilliant Orkest van de Achttiende Eeuw. Directed by Alexander Oliver and written by Don Duyns, Mozart in the Time of Covid was a great idea which worked really well, providing a showcase for some fine singing and a lot of fun. A very enjoyable evening. Michael Hasted 14th October 2021