Well, well, well ... what is this? For once the English title
The Magic Flute is apt since the performance is sung
in English. Is it The Magic Flute? Yes, but only parts
of it. At a time when conductors and directors try to include
every syllable of the long spoken dialogue, here it is drastically
cut and, worse than that, there are numerous cuts in the musical
numbers as well. The sets and costumes are, well ... fanciful
is an understatement. Have a look at the cover photo and you
will see what I mean. The singing isn’t all that good
either, so is there a reason to read further, still more, to
buy the set?
It depends on what you are after. Do you want a historically
correct, period music version - then you can just forget this
one. Do you want the best Mozart singing in the world - forget
it. If you want some light-hearted entertainment, perhaps to
experience together with your children, then this is an excellent
proposition. Die Zauberflöte is a fairytale. It
is full of humour - and a lot of Freemasonry that not only the
grandchildren but probably also the rest of the party will resist;
but never mind. It is beautiful and filled with high spirits.
What’s wrong with the singing? It couldn’t be the
language since most of the cast are Americans and René
Pape’s English is as good as anyone else’s. It could
be that some of the singers aren’t all that partial to
the Mozart idiom - or quite simply that the English words jar
against music that is tailor-made for the German text.
The best vocal reason for buying the set is Nathan Gunn, whose
Papageno is absolutely superb, vocally and scenically. His arias
and the duet with Pamina, the delectable Ying Huang, can stand
comparison with the best recorded versions. Erika Miklósa
is visually a riveting Queen of the Night. The second of her
arias, Der Hölle Rache in the original, is formidable
with brilliant top notes. The first aria has a different tessitura,
much lower, and down there she sounds uncomfortable. I have
admired Matthew Polenzani on several occasions in the past not
least as a sensitive Lieder singer in the first instalment of
Hyperion’s cycle of the complete songs of Franz Liszt.
Here he sounds a bit awkward as Tamino, though he delivers the
spoken dialogue with aplomb. René Pape has been a leading
Sarastro for some time but here he sounds uncharacteristically
bland. Gregg Fedderly is a nasty Monostatos, and for once nasty
is a compliment. The three ladies are not bad vocally but one
almost forgets about their singing when they appear in ghost
costumes. With their detached heads they look like spermatozoa
swimming around. I was looking forward to hearing Robert Lloyd,
since I saw him listed as ‘Second Guard’ but he
never appeared. Thus we were also bereft of the otherworldly:-
Der, welcher wandert diese Strasse voll Beschwerden,
Wird rein durch Feuer, Wasser, Luft und Erden;
Wenn er des Todes Schrecken überwinden kann,
Schwingt er sich aus der Erde Himmel an. -
Erleuchtet wird er dann im Stande seyn,
Sich den Mysterien der Isis ganz zu weih'n.
It seems that I have compiled a formidable list of shortcomings.
Truth is that my wife and I derived a lot of pleasure from this
production - though I doubt we are going to see it again in
the near future.
see also review by Robert