Kirra, Coolangatta and Tweed Heads

Wednesday 04 June 2014

Opera On The Beach

A night at the opera on Coolangatta Beach

Coolangatta was alive with the sounds of fireworks, magic bells and melodious voices as Mozart’s “Magic Flute” was performed on our beachfront by the stars of Opera Australia last month.
Locals within a cooee of Greenmount beach would have been humming along to the popular arias by the final night following a week of rehearsals and 3 nights of performances that attracted a crowd of 8000 to the open air show, the largest cultural event ever staged on the Gold Coast.

The opening night was shaping up as a musical deluge, but mercifully the rain held off as the hero, Prince Tamino (Jonathan Abernethy) set off on his mission to rescue the fair princess (Natalie Aroyan) enslaved by the evil Sarastro (Conal Coad), aided by his magic flute, a birdcatcher companion, some silver bells and three spirit guides.

First performed in Vienna in 1791, the Magic Flute is a form of opera known as Singspiel that includes both dialogue and singing, all designed to make it easy for the audience to follow the plot without taxing the concentration too much.  This left plenty of scope to soak up the novel and beautiful atmospherics of the night: flights of seagulls overhead, the sound the waves breaking on the shore, and the image of the conductor, Simon Kenway, broadcast larger than life as he masterfully led his orchestra of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, strings and glockenspiel.

Interval was a chance to stretch the legs, shake out the sand, and check out how others grappled with the challenge of simultaneously “dressing for the occasion” while staying warm and being prepared for an open-air drenching. There were plenty of frocked-up patrons, but most opted for more of a “Friday night at the football” look in an attempt to stay comfortable while ensconced on blankets or beach chairs on the sand.

The action hotted up in the second act as members of the Tweed Heads Coolangatta Surf Lifesaving Club paraded on stage clad in no more than their red and yellow togs and lifesaving caps. Together with the community choir of locals who joined in the rousing choruses alongside the meltingly powerful voices of the Opera Australia stars, and a fireworks finale, they kept us glued to the sand and riveted to the plot.  The rain held off and we exited our beach theatre happy and dry while mentally attempting to untangle Mozart’s chaotic tale of trials and triumphs that trumpets the virtues of courage, goodness and wisdom. 

Kudos to Michael Gow and artistic directors for the glorious fairytale imagery of the tiara-clad Queen of the Night (leading lady, Milica Ilic), atop her giant sandcastle stage, in a gown of sparkling silver, with palms outstretched and glowing with light – a moment to cherish in a night to remember.

The Magic Flute was presented by Opera Australia in partnership with Bleach Festival, City of Gold Coast and Tourism & Events Queensland.