Let's talk about the sets for a minute. Not fabulous, but they still worked. I'm not sure if they intended for us to laugh as Tamino and Pamina endure the trials by fire and water, but it was so cheesy as to be very funny indeed. In the big scene at the end, I thought the set made Sarastro look like Raël or maybe the high priest of the Order of the Solar Temple. Either of those would be comic in a kind of tragic way. The spirits floating across the stage on a cloud were inspired and the periodic appearance of props from on high (bird, noose) also made us laugh out loud and worked quite well.
Costumes? Fabulous animals, including the serpent at the beginning and all number of creatures brought out by the flute, including a … camelcorn? Tamino had a lovely outfit through most of it, until he donned the Solar Temple robes at the end, and the Queen of the Night's tiara was to die for, or to die of if she had decided to use it for evil, which I wouldn't put past her! The best of all were the costumes of Papageno and Papagena, most birdlike indeed.
And while we're on the topic of Papageno, I have to salute the fabulous job that Aaron St. Clair Nicholson did in the role of Papageno. Not only does he sing beautifully, but his comic acting abilities, including great timing, had us rolling in the aisles. The Queen of the Night aria, sung by Aline Kutan, was also very beautiful and well executed.
Of course, some of the content of this opera is not for the feminist of heart. Memorable lines like "A woman does little, chatters much" and "A man must lead your hearts, for without him every woman is misguided" are not exactly cut from the pages of a Gloria Steinem book. But I guess we can all agree that Mozart was not a feminist, but a product of his time and move on from there.
Good fun, this one, and even better in good company.