THE audience appreciation at the end of the Welsh National Opera's revival of Dominic Cooke's 2005 The Magic Flute at the Bristol Hippodrome on Thursday spoke volumes.

The loudest applause and cheers of the evening were reserved for the youngest members of the cast, two boys and one girl, and the WNO orchestra.

This production of Mozart’s ever-popular and timeless classic is nothing more than an entertaining evening of operatic pantomime complete with bowler hats, umbrellas and an angry giant lobster.

Completing the WNO’s spring season, The Magic Flute revives a production originally directed by Dominic Cooke, and is performed as a Singspiel, with the singing and spoken dialogue in English.

Conducted by Damian Iorio, making his debut with WNO, it made a triumphant return to the Hippodrome, accompanied by Magritte-inspired staging, costumes and sets.

As part of the WNO’s season of royal adventure, the plot revolves loosely around prince Tamino's quest to rescue princess Pamina and find true love.

Set designer Julian Crouch transforms the opera into a surreal, dream-like world that also features a newspaper-reading lion and a fish transformed into a giant pennyfarthing bicycle.

The witty story of enchantment and colourful characters alongside Mozart’s music results in a unique piece of opera, particularly well known for its soaring Der Holle Rache arias sung by The Queen of The Night.

Returning to WNO in this role is Samantha Hay, whose arias were brilliantly sung and positively uplifting.

The cast includes Mark Stone as Papageno, whose performance made the most of the opera’s comic moments and was hugely appreciated by the audience.

He was one of the highlights of the evening, particularly in his gentle scenes with Claire Hampton as Papagena, once she had dropped her cod Yorkshire crone persona, and the couple ended up being surrounded by a crècheful of mechanically crawling babies.

I felt that Ben Johnson as Tamino was a better singer than an actor, while Anita Watson as Pamina began very softly until finding more musical depth in her scenes with the Queen of the Night (Samantha Hay) and, later, Sarastro (James Platt).

Making her debut with WNO, soprano Jennifer Davis also appears as First Lady, fresh from her acclaimed engagement as Elsa in Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House.

Performing with Kezia Bienek (Second Lady) and Emma Carrington (Third Lady) the trio, clad in black dresses and white pinafores, supplied an oestrogen-fuelled comic contribution with their lustful advances on the unconscious Tamino,

The three children - in this production two boys and one girl – sang well as a trio and projected their delicate trebles with apparent ease.

There were also some lovely performances from James Platt as Sarastro, whose rich bass voice dominated his scenes with the other characters and was superbly sung.

The minor characters also handled themselves well, particularly Howard Kirk as Monostatos giving comedic clumsiness to his designs on the princess.

Simon Crosby Buttle (First Priest) and Phillip Rhodes (Speaker and Second Priest) lended gravity to overseeing Tamino’s trials.

Costume designer Kevin Pollard clad the WNO Chorus in long, bright orange coats and bowler hats, complete with orange umbrellas which they opened in the final scene.

They sang with power far outweighing their modest numbers, even when appearing as disembodied heads on the floor in Act 2. Their performance was very entertaining, as was their use of the umbrellas for voting.

For the most part, the set comprised of walls covered with blue skies in reference to Magritte and large wooden doors in multiples of three through which the characters entered and exited.

Lighting effects were almost non-existent, except for the odd flash of lightning and flicks on and off in co-ordination with Tamino’s blindfolding.

At the very end, the back of the stage was lit for the temple scenes when the whole cast comes on stage to celebrate the union of Tamino and Pamina.

I had never seen The Magic Flute before, and found it lacked depth, but for the audience it provides a fun-filled evening out and good quality music from the WNO orchestra.