P. Craig Russel has created a series of graphic novels, based on the stories of famous operas. This first book is based on Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Mozart wrote it in conjunction with a theatre company, and the story has an almost Shakespearean feel to it, blending classical literature with mythology and the key issues of the day.
While Shakespeare’s plays translate reasonably well into graphic novels, particularly where magic or significant spectacle is involved, an opera without music feels like it ought to be doomed to failure. It’s surprising, then, that The Magic Flute holds together well, though I have to admit to having no experience of the opera in its original form, beyond a quick spin through a YouTube version for the purposes of this review. There does, however, seem to be more than enough going on to justify converting the story into a book.
What’s worth noting is that the book isn’t new, and was created in the late Eighties. As a result, its colour palette is limited by the technology of the day. Despite this, Russell’s illustration is resplendent in its depth, with characters and backdrops that are vivid and brimming with life (if not depth of colour).
Opera can seem impenetrable to some, yet there are many classic stories that it’s a shame to miss out on, even if warbling sopranos aren’t your thing. This adaptation takes one of these stories and brings it to life. The lack of music will likely have the purists scoffing but the story stands up without it.