MOZART: Die Zauberflˆte

In other words, this
Die Zauberflˆte is a live recording ó for all intents and purposes, the
only sort of opera set the larger recording companies release these days. Live recording
techniques have advanced so remarkably that until the applause breaks out (as it only
does at the opera’s conclusion), this well-engineered release could pass for a studio effort.

What it gains, as long-time collectors of live recordings already know well, is
the immediacy and cohesion of actual performance. But with the DVD market burgeoning,
why not just present the entire performance, not just the audio? The photographs inside
the CD booklet suggest an attractive staging.

The focus of DG’s marketing seems to be on the conducting of Claudio Abbado. His name
has the largest font size on the cover, and a sticker on the front proclaims “Abbado’s
first ever Magic Flute.” So if the emphasis is on the conductor, a CD makes
sense. A brief note tells us that Abbado went back to Mozart’s autograph, but then
continues to sheepishly inform the reader that the chief product of this research
involves the instrumentation of “four string chords” before a Pamina number. Abbado has
always been a beloved person, and his opera credentials cannot be questioned, especially
considering such classic Verdi sets as his DG Simon Boccanegra. Since his
recovery from a near-fatal bout with cancer, his reputation has taken on a spiritual
aura. Thankfully, this Die Zauberflˆte doesn’t come across as a pontifical
pronouncement. Instead, Abbado relishes the high spirits and exuberance of the score,
with the weightier music of the second act given its due but not slowing the opera down.
With crisp playing from the Mahler Chamber orchestra, Abbado produces a lean, but never
mean Die Zauberflˆte.

A strong cast somehow falls shy of bringing as much individuality to their performances
as Abbado does with his orchestral leadership. A star Sarastro, RenÈ Pape, relies on the
undeniable tonal pleasure of his oaken timbre. His wry humor and sensuality, of course,
don’t belong here, but they are missed. Erika MiklÛsa goes for a lighter, brighter Queen
of the Night sound, and she scores points with the sharpness of her attack in her second
act showpiece. On stage Hanno M¸ller-Brachmann’s burly, even boorish Papageno presumably
came across better. As the young lovers, Dorothea Rˆschmann and Christopher Strehl lack
memorability, especially in comparison to great singers in earlier recordings.

Pape will star soon in Kenneth Branagh’s film version of this opera, and numerous DVDs
are available. In fact, the Metropolitan Opera will begin its series of relayed
broadcasts to movie theaters with the hit Julie Taymor production at the end of this
year. No one, it seems, need fear a lack of access to a recording of this beloved
classic. For collectors of Abbado, no more need be said. All others need to strictly
evaluate their shelf space. If there’s room, this set should be a pleasant addition.

Chris Mullins

image_description=Die Zauberflˆte
product_title=W. A. Mozart: Die Zauberflˆte (K. 620)
product_by=Sarastro: RenÈ Pape; Kˆnigin der Nacht: Erika MiklÛsa; Pamina: Dorothea Rˆschmann; Tamino: Christoph Strehl; Papageno: Hanno M¸ller-Brachmann; Papagena: Julia Kleiter; Sprecher: Georg Zeppenfeld; Monostatos: Kurt Azesberger; Erste Dame: Caroline Stein; Zweite Dame: Heidi Zehnder; Dritte Dame: Anne-Caroline Schl¸ter; Drei Knaben: Alexander Lischke, Frederic Jost, Niklas Mallmann (Soloists from Tˆlzer Knabenchor); Erster geharnischter Mann: Danilo Formaggia; Zweiter geharnischter Mann: Sascha Borris; Erster Priester: Andreas Bauer;
Zweiter Priester: Danilo Formaggia; Dritter Priester: Tobias Beyer; Drei Sklaven: Matthias Bernhold, Martin Olbertz, Tobias Beyer; Arnold Schˆnberg Chor (Chorus Master: Erwin Ortner); Mahler Chamber Orchestra; Claudio Abbado (cond.)
product_id= DG 00289 477 5789 [2CDs]