If you are looking for a show which will enchant your children this half term, we have found just the thing.

The Mini Magic Flute is a bitesize opera, packing in fun, fantasy and magical music into a half hour show for all the family.

The Mini Magic Flute
  • Sun 24 Feb @ 11.30am, 1.30pm
  • NCEM, Walmgate, York
  • £7, U16 £5, Family £20
  • More details

Created by John Savournin of Opera North, it was performed for CBBC last summer. And this Sunday (24 February) it comes to the National Centre For Early Music for two performances.

Telling the tale of a prince’s search for a princess, it is an interactive adventure story complete with puppets suitable to ages 4+.

As part of the show, you will be invited take part in a creative arts experience beforehand. Not only will your creation feature in the performance, but you will also be able to take it home afterwards.

‘They find high notes funny!’

John Savournin as Sarastro in Opera North’s The Magic Flute. Photograph: Alastair Muir
We caught up with the director, writer and performer of the Mini Magic Flute, John Savournin, to learn more about the show.

Where did the idea for the Mini Magic Flute come from?
It came about through discussion with the team at Opera North. We decided to present a mini version of The Magic Flute due to its very creative and imaginative story, which offers a lot for children to enjoy and appreciate. In many ways, it is the perfect story to act as an introduction to opera, full of magic – even animals!


How do you go about turning a full-scale opera into something that children as young as four can enjoy?
It’s important to find a way to adapt/ abbreviate the story for a young audience, so that it is easy to follow and fast paced, and includes elements that they can physically engage with, either through action, through using their voices, or through arts and crafts.


There’s a hands-on element of the show – how does this work?
The children have the opportunity to make birds out of paper before the performance, which then have a special part in the story. The performers also really interact with the children, going into the audience and asking them to participate in helping the characters on their journey.


Richard Pinkstone and John Savournin in The Mini Magic Flute
What sort of responses have you had from young audiences?
They are very attentive and invested in the story and are often mesmerised by the visual aspects (we include the use of several puppets) and by the sound of the opera singers’ voices, which are really exciting when heard up close. They find high notes particularly funny!


What is it like for the performers?
It’s a very rewarding experience, but it also takes a lot of energy and focus to attract and keep the children’s attention.


Charlotte Trepess and Richard Pinkstone in the show

Do you think it helps to convert people into opera buffs?
I think it’s vital that opera as an art form is introduced to children at a young age if they are going to develop an interest in it as they grow up. It hopefully means it will becoming part of their culture and a ‘norm’, rather than a daunting experience that they’d rather not dare to try, which sadly is often the case.

The reality is that it is raw, honest, breathtaking and far from alienating! It’s got to be one of the most exciting theatrical experiences one can have.


Could you do the same thing with other operas?
I’ve devised a number of ‘mini operas’, including Hansel and Gretel, Don Giovanni and Elixir of Love, for Opera North. They are all different in their own way, but it’s definitely possible to take any story and adapt it to be ‘whistlestop’ in approach. Though, of course, not every opera story is suitable for children…