Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mozart - Die Zauberflote |
The Magic Flute
Actors: Simon Keenlyside, Dorothea Roschmann, Diana Damrau, Thomas Allen, Franz-Josef Selig
Directors: Sir Colin Davis, David McVicar
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
It?s hard to find a version of Mozart?s Die Zauberflöte that?s as well sung as this 2003 Covent Garden production. Led by the eminent Mozartian, Sir Colin Davis, orchestra and singers present a warm, often intense vision o... more »
Very good, but lacking the "magic"
D. DEGEORGE | Ellicott City, MD USA | 09/10/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Let nothing I say here imply that this is less than a first-class production of Zauberflöte, and it's not a bad way to start one's collection of operas on Blu-ray. The singers are all at least good, if not uniformly great. The following singers are excellent: Simon Keenlyside (Papageno) with a voice that is expressive, well-managed, and handsome in every way, not to mention that his acting is a thorough delight; Diana Damrau (Queen of the Night), manic and technically and dramatically brilliant; and Dorothea Röschmann (Pamina) with creamy tone and perfect technique. This is not a girlish princess, which is to say that the role is often sung with a lighter voice; but I cannot complain about a voice as luxuriant as this. Sometimes Tamino and Pamina are presented as characters just barely out of their teens, which can suit the freshness and innocence implied by their roles; however, this thirtyish-looking couple works fine, too, especially as it allows us to experience fuller voices. Röschmann probably looks rather young from seats in the theater, but the Blu-ray close-ups aren't very flattering. The Three Ladies are also among the most excellent singers in this performance. Choral work is very good, as would be expected in Britain.
This performance falls short of the best in several respects. The first weakness I observed was during the overture, which failed to build much excitement or sense of anticipation for this evening of magic & music. I have never wholly understood why Colin Davis is held in such high regard as a Mozart & Haydn conductor (his reputation as a Berlioz interpreter is better deserved in my opinion). "Fortune favors the bold" is a line in the libretto, which should have been heeded by Davis, who fails to ask much of the orchestra and doesn't get any more than asks for. Everything is elegant, safe, and in its place; and only rarely do things sound stodgy; but there is neither fire nor anything else particularly revelatory or affecting.
The sets and costumes are just OK; they do not detract (as in the stark & cartoonish Met production premiered in 2006); but they don't add much either, except for those worn by the Queen of the Night and Sarastro.
Will Hartmann is not especially well cast as Tamino--it would be nice if he looked more youthful; however, in the world of operatic tenors, one could do a lot worse; and I am being especially picky here, but I must say that his intonation falls a touch short of the ideal in that it is not 100% secure, and he often lands a bit sharp on upward leaps.
Franz-Josef Selig is convincing as Sarastro and has a voice that is rich throughout its range but especially impressive in the lower registers. At the risk of undermining my own credibility, I have to admit that I do not like the work of operatic basses very much; their bellowing is often wobbly & pitch-inaccurate. Once in a great while one runs across a bass who is fully in command of his instrument, but this is not one of those times. So that I don't malign all of bassdom, I'll mention that John Relyea and Bryn Terfel are excellent positive examples; unfortunately, both are bass-baritones rather than bassi profundi; and I have to admit that Selig's heft on the low notes is perfect for Sarastro.
Adrian Thompson is suitably snarly & nasty as Monostatos. I have heard the role sung much more pleasantly by others, more for its musical beauty than dramatic character; here, however, Thompson trades prettiness for loathsomeness. Of course by that reasoning, a Papageno should have been chosen with more vulnerability in his voice, rather than the strength we get from Keenlyside. All things considered, if I had to be absolutely consistent, I'd say go with Keenlyside's musicality rather than Thompson's theatricality; but I am not upset to have both approaches in the same opera. The inconsistency in casting philosophy may, however, help to account for the lack of a sense of unity in this performance; there is little chemistry among the cast.
Even though the Popageno-Papagena romance is nominally a side show next to the serious subject of "rescuing" Pamina, the former is the emotional center of the opera for me. The duet that starts off silly with the repetition of Popageno's and Papagena's names but then makes a turn into one of the most rapturous climaxes in all music. Productions can make a big deal of it or not and be dramatically true; but a great opportunity is lost if it is not played to the hilt, which, to change metaphors, means that the music has to be milked for all its considerable worth. It has to be allowed to breathe and reach its climax at full force with no rushing or glibness. This performance doesn't reach the height of the very best; but neither does it trivialize, even though the scene is played mostly for its comic value; and Keenlyside's & Ailish Tynan's rich voices provide an abundance of beauty and substance.
To sum up, this is an expert performance, with many fine moments, that runs just a bit too much like clockwork. One of the reviews of the standard DVD version of this production gets it right: "Flute, yes. Magic, no." Also among the reviews of the standard DVD, there is as of this writing a very accurate assessment of this production, which gives it two stars and is titled "Disappointing," Although I rate the disc a little more highly, I find myself almost completely in agreement with the detailed assessment there, one exception being that, as noted above, I thought the chorus was rather good. When looking at reviews of a Blu-ray disc, for which there is only a small sample of opinion, it behooves one to look at the more plentiful reviews available for the standard-DVD issue.
Finally, speaking of Blu-ray, this disc is technically fine, in 5.1 PCM audio, which is to say no matrixing or compression--each channel has at least the full quality of a CD. That is not to say that the miking and dynamic range are perfect, but they are quite good. With a large-screen monitor the sharp HD image puts one right onstage.
Magnificent in parts, lacking in others.
Thomas E. Ascher | Bellingham, WA | 01/20/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is certainly worth having. Diana Damrau's Queen of the Night is the most magnificent, vocally and dramatically that I have seen. The blu-ray picture and sound are exquisite. Will Hartmann as Tamino and Dorothea Roschmann as Pamina are youthful, vibrant, have lovely voices and great chemistry together. Simon Keenlyside, however, is one of the weakest Papagenos I've seen. The role of Papageno, although a secondary lead, is the more important role in terms of sustaining interest throughout the opera, particularly in the second act. His is the comic, everyman role, and as such it requires superb timing and virtuousity to pull it off. He just doesn't have it and the opera suffers because of it. Ailish Tynan as Papagena misses on all fronts. She is supposed to be presented, initially, as an old hag. In this version she is presented from the beginning as a sleazy tart, so there is no point to Papageno's eventual discovery and delight. In summary, much to enjoy, worth having, but ultimately, a disappointment."