Mozart’s Ghost finds its Way through Das Labyrinth

The indulgence reached its
pinnacle in 2006—fifty years prior to his tercentenary—with the
staging of all 22 of his operas, including early works which scholars have
discovered to have been co-authored by his father, Leopold. This season, the
new Intendant Alexander Pereira has brushed the dust off another 18th-century
obscurity, written not by W.A. himself but in posthumous tribute to his last
opera, Die Zauberflˆte. The librettist and impresario Emmanuel
Schickaneder, eager to ride the success of the Singspiel, set to work writing a
sequel, Das Labyrinth, and found a willing partner in the composer
Peter von Winter. The work was premiered at the Theater an der Wien in 1798,
seven years after Mozart’s death and the premiere of Die

To Schickaneder ‘s credit, the ambiguous nature of good and evil in
the original libretto continues to provide scholars with endless fodder. When
Goethe heard of the Das Labyrinth’s success in 1803, he began penning his
own sequel which was left incomplete after the fruitless search for a composer.
While Goethe develops the story in a more Romantic direction, endowing Tamino
and Pamina with a son, the Genius, and augmenting the magical powers of both
the Queen of the Night and Sarastro, the trajectory of Schickaneder’s
sequel does not depart much from Die Zauberflˆte despite the
introduction of several new characters and a labyrinth which represents the
final trial for Tamino and Pamina (never mind that Sarastro already initiated
them into his sun circle). Meanwhile, the Queen is scheming not only with the moor
Monostatos but Tipheus, King of Paphos, who vies for Pamina’s hand. They
manage to briefly abduct the princess, but the Queen must ultimately cede to
Sarastro’s powers when Tamino defeats Tipheus in a duel. Papageno and
Papagena, who have discovered a large extended family, also help suppress evil
by capturing Monostatos.

Winter’s score faithfully adopts strains of the original opera with a
range of success. The first duet of Papageno and Papagena, “Lalaera!
Lara! Lara!,” is a pleasant spinoff of “Pa, pa, pa…”
without directly rehashing Mozart’s melodies. The chorus of priests that
ends the eleventh scene of Act One is skilfully crafted, a ghost of
Mozart’s incomparable harmonies, yet it would have been better placed at
the very end of the act. The Queen’s opening aria “Ha! Wohl mir!
Hˆre es, Natur” reveals that Winter studied his late Mozart operas
carefully, with strong hints of his proto-Romanticism, yet it is melodically
not very inventive, and the firework coloratura that characterizes the role is
reduced to a passage of uninspired runs toward the end. The sequel’s
Pamina is assigned more virtuosity than her original counterpart, but sadly,
the spin-off to the aria “Ach, ich f¸hl’s”—“ Ach!
Ich muss alleine tragen”—gives no musical indication of her longing
to die and instead culminates in meaningless coloratura. The Three Women, here
named Venus, Amor and Page, get some nice numbers, revealing Winter’s
talent for colourful, pseudo-Mozartean scoring, and yet the effort could have
been more self-conscious. The five-note motive representing the magic flute
does not emerge once, not even when Sarastro hands it to Tamino for protection before
he enters the labyrinth.

Despite the worn-out qualities of the piece, it has its genuinely charming
moments, particularly with Papageno and his clan. In the Salzburg production,
seen August 26, the young Austrian baritone Thomas Tatzl stole the show as the
feathered bird catcher, joking to the audience with tireless charisma and a
naturally warm, well-projected voice. Swiss soprano Regula M¸hlemann was also
delightful as Papagena. The celebrated tenor Michael Schade was the stand-out
of the evening from a purely vocal perspective in the role of Tamino, while
Malin Hartelius was more uneven as Pamina, struggling to overcome the
unfavourable acoustics of the Residenzhof, a covered courtyard where audience
members sat with blankets on their laps to ward of the chill of the Salzburger
Schn¸rrregen (sudden rainfall). The bass of Christoff Fischesser
similarly risked being swallowed in the role of Sarastro. As the Queen of the
Night, Julia Novikova was strongest in pure lyric moments. The baritone Klaus
Kuttler was a frustrated Monostatos, and Anton Scharinger amusing as the Older

The Three Women (Nina Bernsteiner, Christina Daletska, and Monia Bohinec)
brought fine singing to the stage, as did members of the Festival
Children’s Choir who appeared to Tamino as the “Three Genies”
after Monostatos’ attempt to abduct Papagena. The Salzburger Bachchor,
prepared by Alois Glassner, did full justice to Winter’s choral numbers,
and Ivor Bolton led the Orchestra of the Mozarteum in a characteristically
crisp, authentic reading of the score, even if it occasionally lacked elegance.
Sets by Raimund Orfeo Voigt started out inauspiciously with a mini-proscenium
of a theatre that looked straight out of a high-school production but improved
with towering black panels punctured with light to represent Sarastro’s
circle. Costumes by Elisabeth Binder-Neururer were designed in the local
tradition of semi-rococo but reached their apex in the colourful Lederhosen-
and Tracht-inspired garb of the Papageno family. The dancing, feathered
children of the finale reaffirmed Salzburg as an anachronism Mozart might never
have imagined could exist over three centuries after his death.

Rebecca Schmid

Click here for cast and production information.

image_description=Klaus Kuttler as Monostatos and Julia Novikova as The Queen of Night [Photo © Hans Jˆrg Michel courtesy of Salzburger Festival]
product_title=Peter von Winter: Das Labyrinth
product_by=A review by Rebecca Schmid
product_id=Above: Klaus Kuttler as Monostatos and Julia Novikova as The Queen of Night [Photo © Hans Jˆrg Michel courtesy of Salzburger Festival]