Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mozart - Die Zauberflote|
Actors: Rene Pape, Diana Damrau, Paul Groves, Franz Grundheber, Christian Gerhaher
Director: Pierre Audi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Musically Splendid 2006 Vienna FLUTE
TODD KAY | 01/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This FLUTE, super-complete in its inclusion of spoken dialogue (2 DVDs, 176 minutes), features a staging by Pierre Audi that is apt to divide viewers. It resembles a children's television show (and may, therefore, have some appeal as family viewing), with its searingly bright colors, playground-like sets heavy on geometric designs, and all manner of wild costumes and props, though the stage is never truly cluttered. Papageno makes his first appearance in a toy car, attended by playful supernumeraries in yellow bird costumes; they resemble something you might see strutting around at the opening of a chicken fast-food restaurant. The three boys travel overhead not in the usual hot-air balloon but in something like a World War I fighter plane. There are some arresting images (such as Sarastro's followers, in mime-like make-up, solemnly marching onto the darkened stage carrying glow sticks) amidst much silliness, and real fire and water are used in the ritual scenes. Whether the production succeeds may depend on whether one comes down on the side of "fanciful" or "garish."
About the musical portion, I find very little to fault, and would have no problem placing this in the very front rank on DVD (the brilliant cinema of the Bergman film should be considered as just that -- a cinematic achievement, not a typical opera DVD). It even holds its own against the best on records. None of the singing is less than acceptable, and most of it is superb. Four singers merit individual mention. Genia Kuhmeier follows on the heels of Dorothea Roeschmann (the heroine of Abbado's recent CD recording) as another stunning modern Pamina, a winsome presence who achieves new heavenly things every time she opens her mouth; she even plays well in close-up. Diana Damrau is a forceful Queen of the Night who scores highly for vocal agility and is genuinely fearsome as she bullies her daughter in the second aria. Christian Gerhaher, as Papageno, must (like all of the male cast members) overcome unfortunate hair extensions; he succeeds with his fine voice and precise musicianship, and some comedic flair. I continue to feel that the role of Sarastro lies a bit low for Rene Pape's maximum comfort; he makes every note, but doesn't "own" the deepest ones the way a Kurt Moll does. Nevertheless, his is a classy, attractive piece of singing, and he has a fine physical presence -- he knows how to get maximum mileage just from standing erect with a dignified mien, slowly walking across the stage, and doing the other kingly things that operatic basses must do.
Conductor Riccardo Muti presides over a brilliant Viennese ensemble, and his reading is elegant in its lines, rich and healthy in its sonority, and traditional to a fault (unlike his long-time rival Abbado, he has not been influenced by the rise of historically-informed performance practices in music of this vintage). He does not seem to see the FLUTE as a conductor's opera to the degree that he does, say, DON GIOVANNI, where one is more conscious throughout of his ordering hand and the personality he imposes. Here, he generally is content to set mainstream tempi and elicit smooth, blended, well-judged orchestral playing that "lights" what the singers are doing more than it draws attention to the pit. In other words, for much of the performance (a gorgeous overture and a few brightly blazing choral and scene-ending climaxes aside), this often-fiery conductor is in a decidedly supportive, even self-effacing mode. As a reading of this type, it is done on a high level. A very small orchestral detail that begs for an approving mention: Papageno's bells have rarely sounded as enchanting as they do here.
The conductor and some of the singers discuss the opera (in English, Italian or German, with subtitles, depending on the speaker's country of origin) in a mini-documentary, which also gives us tantalizing glimpses of a piano rehearsal. One only wishes this ran longer.
If Decca's entire "Salzburg 22" series of Mozart operas approaches the standard set by this one, then it will be a most prestigious collection. Highly recommended."
Singing trumps a ponderous production
Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 03/10/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD release of the Salzburg production doesn't coalesce. The stage
design by Karel Appel and costumes by Jorge Jara is a
jumbleshop between Pee Wee Herman's Playhouse and a
deranged version of Romper Room. Too-cute oversized toys
mixed with ugly jungle-like symbols. Unlike in the MET's Taymor's
production, the touches in the Salzburg staging seemed
ponderous, forced and gimmicky. Sarastro is made to look
like a ghoul. The Queen of the Night, in her first costume,
looks like she'd been hosed down with Lime-Jello
Marshmallow Surprise. Tamino looks like a WW II refugee;
Pamina looks better. Papageno in dreadlocks. Some weird
staging concepts: At the end of Act One Papageno and
Monostatos are tied up in these sacks, and hooked onto
these huge fish hooks which are lowered down onto the
stage, and away they go, they are hoisted up. Nothing
coalesces as a unity in this production, and all the
opera's charm, fatally, has been zapped away: a cynical,
un-Mozartian view. Get the Ustinov DVD to realize the opera's true magic.
A pity too: this is one of Riccardo Muti's greatest
successes as a conductor. He is relaxed, and, eliciting
inspiration from his orchestra, the score sounds simply
gorgeous. Textures are crystal clear, and there is a
beguiling warmth in all his work - what a relief to see
this side of him. Pape is much as on the MET telecast, his
character once again hampered by an oxyMORONIC concept.
Vocally, Pape sounds better at the MET; Salzburg finds him
reaching the lowest notes with a shortage of ideal
sonority. Genia Kühmeier is a vocally and physically
beautiful Pamina, with a tone that really carries. Paul
Groves' Tamino is outstanding: his timbre is fuller and
richer than most Taminos, and he seems like a true heroic
prince. In fact, the lovers are stronger here than the
MET's pair (but maybe that's because Gunn shone so
brightly). Diana Damrau, in her second DVD outing as the
Queen of the Night, is just as brilliant in her singing,
deadly evil, charged with menace in her delivery and
dialogue as on her memorable Covent Garden performance from
a few years earlier. But the idiot costumes in the current
Salzburg production squanders Damrau's effectiveness (she
is the star of the Covent Garden production, where the
ferocity of her energy - she's a possessed demon - makes
everyone else recede from memory. And that Covent Garden
production I absolutely despise, a drab,
Dickensian-Parliament-Cockney affair that, too, zaps the
magic out of the piece).
The Salzburg production also manages to render Papageno
charmless. That alone is a disqualifier. If a Magic Flute
cannot charm, what's the use? And as with the Lucio Silla,
it's infuriating, because the casts are so outstanding. I
am fearing the rest of the Mozart 22 releases in this
cycle, that they'll featured scuppered productions as well.
Full of joy
Bob Epstein | Minneapolis | 09/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This joyous, delightful performance jumps to the top of the list of Zauberflotes I have seen on DVD, six in total. The brilliant Crayola-bright staging of Pierre Audi and set design of Karel Appel seem to have divided viewers, but I found them insightful, touching and thoroughly winning. This is simply a joy to watch and listen to. Yet the seriousness and profundity are not lacking. It is not only delightful but eloquent.
The voices and characterizations are top-notch and the Vienna Philharmonic sounds golden under a sensitive Riccardo Muti. There are no weak links in the casting, from a brilliant, demonic Diana Damrau as Queen of the Night to a touching Tamino (Paul Groves), sweet Papageno (Christian Gerhaher) and eloquent Pamina (Genia Kuhmeier). Audi gets the most out of his actor singers.
Of the remaining five Zauberflotes I have seen, here are some summaries, in order of my preference. (I have not seen the Sir Colin Davis, Covent Garden DVD nor the Wolfgang Sawallish, Bavrian State Opera DVD - other major video contenders).
4.5 stars: Arnold Ostman and the Drottningholm Court Orchestra. A real winner, with tremendous ensemble, verve and spirit, marred only by a vocally poor Queen of the Night (Birgit Louise Frandsen). These lesser-known singers bring off the drama and the fun, with interaction that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
4 stars: James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera. The stars of this winning performance are the charming, delightful sets of David Hockney and the beguiling Manfred Hemm as Papageno. Some of the acting is a bit stiff (Francisco Araiza as Tamino, admittedly a rather priggish character anyway), and Kathleen Battle as Pamina. Levine, disparaged by some reviewers here, I find a fine Mozartean here, full of zest.
3 stars: Wolfgang Gonnenwein and the Ludwigsburger Festival. A straightforward, minimalist Zauberflote that has its draws, a fine Tamino (Deon van der Welt) and fetching Pamina (lrik Sonntag), good brisk conducting by Gonnenwein and an inviting elemental stage design. Some of the costume designs - a sleeveless Papageno, the three boys and the three ladies - don't come off as well as they should, and the Queen of the Night (Andrea Frei) is only fair.
2 stars: Bernard Haitink and the Glyndebourne Festival. An earlier David Hockney production, similar to the Met's, but without the spirt of that performance, marred by pedestrian conducting by Haitink and not enough involvement from a generally overmatched cast.
1 star: Franz Welser-Most and the Zurich Opera. A distressing and dull production mars good conducting and singing. Far too somber, lacking fun. There are both gravitas and lightness in Zauberflote, and this performance overemphasizes the former at the expense of the latter."
Super! This production would please Mozart!
P. Sutherland | Berea, Ohio, USA | 12/31/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've read so many bad reviews of the M/22 productions, I was totally surprised by this one. I loved it!!! The cast was super; the singing glorious! The special effects, colorful, modern art scenery and costumes were perfect for an otherworldly fantasy opera. I think this production would please Mozart!
I particularly enjoyed Genia Kuhmeier as Pamina and Diana Damrau as the Queen of the Night. I was not familiar with any of the cast except Paul Groves, whom I admire, and everyone else was a very pleasant surprise. I didn't think anyone could equal Natalie Dessay as the Queen of the Night, but Diana Damrau's performance was right on par. That is my highest compliment.
This production has everything. I recommend it!