Having gleefully travelled the path to perdition as Tom Rakewell in last summer’s Garsington production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, tenor Robert Murray is now at the London Coliseum in a starring role of precisely the opposite moral character. As Tamino, in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, he journeys out of darkness towards truth and light through a series of trials inspired by the composer’s (and his librettist Emanuel Schikaneder’s) involvement in Freemasonry.

“Earth has not anything to show less cute,” as Ogden Nash wittily observed, “Than the smugness of a Mason at The Magic Flute.” In fact, Nicholas Hytner’s much-revived 1988 production for English National Opera offers little opportunity for smugness, since the work’s joyful pantomimic qualities are stressed, while the dour rituals and emblems of the craft hardly figure. Besides, the brotherhood led by Sarastro (a wonderful stately performance by Robert Lloyd, if oddly nasal at times) is presented more in a Quaker style, suggestive of a New World setting.

Bob Crowley’s designs, meanwhile, bring a strong touch of the Egyptian, with the three temples of Nature, Reason and Wisdom presented as hieroglyph-laden walls, which creepily transform at one point to reveal a bone-strewn catacomb.

Visual surprises begin as the curtain rises, with Tamino in the clutches of a fearsomely realistic serpent. This is speedily dealt with by the Queen of the Night’s three punkish lady attendants (Kate Valentine, Susanna Tudor-Thomas and Deborah Davison) who are soon planning what they hope will be a similar subjugation of the handsome prince.

The pursuit of love is, of course, as important a theme of The Magic Flute as the search for enlightenment, with that true ‘superwoman’ Pamina suggesting an ideal in both areas. Sarah-Jane Davies returns with authority to a role she has sung in two previous ENO revivals. Equal confidence is shown by Emily Hindrichs, a company newcomer, as Pamina’s mother, the Queen of the Night, who excels both in the celebrated Der Hölle Rache and her less showy, but rather more difficult, Act I aria.

The opera’s other true badhat, Monostatos, is not presented as the ‘Moor’ specified in the libretto but, in Stuart Kale’s relishably nasty portrayal, as someone akin to a lecherous old waiter, complete with combed-over fronds of greasy hair. Ugh and double ugh!

The Queen’s birdcatcher Papageno (Roderick Williams) appears to have arrived in her court by way of Barnsley, but contributes deliciously down-to-earth comedy to contrast with the high-falutin’ ambitions of his social superiors. Well does he deserve his Papagena (Amanda Forbes) and the family of chirpy chicks with whom they are soon blessed, in their giant nest swinging high over the stage.

Impeccably conducted by Erik Nielsen, the production continues until February 26. Book on 0871 911 0200 (www.eno.org).