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Think you know The Magic Flute? Think again…

Red Note Ensemble debut at Bath International Festival. 

Red Note Ensemble, Scotland’s contemporary music ensemble, debut at this year’s Bath International Festival in the highly acclaimed production of Mozart’s joyously extrovert opera The Magic Flute.

Directed by Richard Williams, Mozart’s iconic music is a new adaptation for chamber ensemble and Festival Artistic Director Joanna MacGregor’s farewell performance. In the immediate vibrancy of Bath premiere venue Komedia, The Magic Flute recaptures the excitement and popularity of Mozart’s first performance in Vienna’s small Freihaus Theatre in 1791.

Set in a mythical, modern city and in a super-skyscraper, Red Note Ensemble perform with a cast of young international opera singers. The once famous but now reclusive star, The Queen of the Night, has taken refuge. Tamino, the young reporter is out to get a scoop; has Pamina been kidnapped by her father, the multi-media mogul Sarastro, and why are there trials of fire and water for Tamino and Pamina?

Originally arranged for an orchestra hidden in the pit, this chamber arrangement brings the virtuosity of Red Note’s nine brilliant players, right to the front of the stage. Apart from woodwind and strings, you’ll hear Mozart’s gorgeous music played by a sensational accordionist, capturing Wolfgang’s superb populist spirit, and Joanna MacGregor directs from a magic keyboard too!

John Harris, Director of Red Note, says, “This is going to be a lot of fun for us at Red Note. We love Joanna MacGregor, we love her virtuosity, we love the way she thinks about music and makes new things happen, and we’re incredibly excited to see how she and her team re-make Mozart’s wonderful opera for the 21st Century”

The setting moves from the dark lair of Queen of the Night, to Sarastro’s contemporary penthouse hideaway. The set spills out from the stage to the auditorium, as does the action in places, and a silver tree in the audience provides the clues to Tamino and Pamina’s last trial.

This is Mozart at its very best – sparkling, witty, and faithful to the original. Performed in English, this fast-moving, modern dress production has been acclaimed for its clarity, wit and touching sensibility. Highly recommended for all ages, this is true family entertainment with a faultless pedigree, and a delight for both newcomers and opera fans.

Red Note Ensemble, Hear us first.

4 Star Review in Scotsman for Red Note’s Noisy Nights

Gig review: Red Note Ensemble, Edinburgh Jam House
By David Kettle
Published on Thursday 10 May 2012 04:02

With its array of massed laptops, miles of cabling, hi-tech headsets and glowing touch-sensitive globes, this was never going to be an ordinary evening – not even for the crack players of Scottish contemporary music Red Note.

The group joined forces with the Edinburgh-based Inventor Composer Coaction for seven new pieces combining instrumental sounds and live electronic manipulations of those sounds in some startlingly original ways.

The ever-changing textures of Jessica Aslan’s likeable Cache, for example, triggered sampled noises from Diemo Schwarz’s CataRT software to conjure a ghostly mirror ensemble, heard but never seen. The Red Note players donned sensors that looked worryingly like offenders’ tags for Shiori Usui’s aptly titled Into the Flesh, which they performed as much with their muscle movements as with their instruments.

Admittedly, the technology outshone the musical content in some pieces, and the raucous improvisations of Christos Michalakos’s concluding Death Ground (Approximately) seemed a little out of place.

But Stuart MacRae’s masterful Shadow Study showed that less can be so much more, its quiet unisons gradually gathering a halo of subtle electronic effects as the piece developed.

The high point of the evening, though, was Harry Whalley’s Clasp Together (beta), which required Red Note clarinettist Peter Furniss to don a headband in order to control the piece’s electronics with his brainwaves. The score includes thought commands for the performer, the programme notes informed us, and watching Furniss close his eyes and relax his mind to take the piece to its quiet conclusion was unforgettable.

Rating: ****