The internationally renowned Mozart interpreter Sir Colin Davis conducts the chorus and orchestra of the Royal Opera House and a glittering cast in David McVicar's 2003 production of Mozart's last opera, recorded in sumptu... more »ous surround sound live at Covent Garden. SPECIAL FEATURES:
? Behind the Scenes
? Conductor Sir Colin Davis talks about Die Zauberflöte
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many of us hold up as the standard filmed version of 'The Magic Flute' the one that Ingmar Bergman did at Drottningholm perhaps twenty years ago. Obviously the film opened up the stage and made the opera more cinematic than a staged version could be. This DVD is of a production taped digitally in January 2003 at Covent Garden, a new production staged by David McVicar, designed by John Macfarlane and conducted by that eminent Mozartian, Sir Colin Davis. And, of course, it is simply of a stage production; there is no breaking down the walls of the stage. However, the direction for video is both masterful and unobtrusive. And then there's the production itself. The leading singers are all quite wonderful. The only slightly less than top-drawer singer, in my opinion, is Franz-Josef Selig as Sarastro; he has the cavernous bass required for the part but there is an incipient wobble that distracts. In the 'wonderful' category are some singers previously unknown to me. Tamino is sung by a young German tenor, Will Hartmann, whose voice reminds me of that star German tenor of yesteryear, Rudolf Schock; it is not innately beautiful but it is solid, masculine and has a ringing top. His acting is basic but more than adequate; Tamino is not a role that calls for great acting. The Queen of the Night, Diana Damrau, is not one of those coloratura canaries so often assigned to the role; she is a dramatic coloratura and not only does she sing the role well, her acting is believable. Her makeup and costume make her look, appropriately, like a cross between Morticia Addams and Cruella de Vil. A scary lady. Pamina is sung, and acted believably, by German soprano Dorothea Röschmann. Her 'Ach, ich fuhl's' is moving and utterly gorgeous. She has floated high notes that cause gooseflesh.The lesser roles are also taken well. Papagena is humorous, physical and well-sung by Ailish Tynan. Monastatos is properly repellantly lecherous and sung with impeccable diction by Adrian Thompson. It was particularly heart-warming to see well-loved veteran basso, Richard Van Allen, as the First Priest; the voice is still there and his acting, as always, is spot on. Thomas Allen's Speaker is a bit less effective but still quite good. The three Ladies, the three Boys and the two Armed Men are all effective sung and acted.My highest praise, though, goes to Simon Keenlyside who is quite simply the best Papageno I've ever seen. His is an extremely athletic performance; he takes some tumbles and makes some leaps that have you gasping in surprise. At one point he slides across the stage--trying to catch a bird at the end of his entrance aria--as well as any short-stop you've ever seen. His comic acting--aided by lots of close-ups--has you laughing out loud, and yet he portrays the longing for 'eine Weibchen' in a way that puts a lump in your throat. His sturdy baritone is one of the best around these days. A real triumph for him. The audience gave him, deservedly, the loudest and longest applause during the curtain calls. Overall, this is the best staged production of 'Zauberflöte' I've ever seen. I was riveted and didn't even take a break between the two acts I was so drawn into it. Extras on the DVD inlude brief interviews with McVicar and Macfarlane, and a long interview--quite informative and utterly charming--with Sir Colin. There is also a spoken synopsis that is quite well done, and I'd suggest you view it before you view the opera if you're not very familiar with the plot. I give this DVD my very highest recommendation. Scott Morrison"
"Mozart is simply God"
E. A. Lovitt | Gladwin, MI USA | 06/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In this DVD's special feature, renowned Mozart interpreter Sir Colin Davis states (or quotes another musician) that, "Mozart is simply God." He compares this composer's Singspiel in two acts to Shakespeare's valedictory work, "The Tempest," and relates that one of Mozart's characters actually quotes Prospero. This occurs when Sarastro is speaking of the Queen of the Night: "This thing of darkness I / Acknowledge mine" (5.1.275-76). How very appropriate since Mozart's librettist Schikaneder was among other things a Shakespearean actor. Mozart himself was said to be working on sketches for an operatic version of "The Tempest" when he died.This production was filmed at the Royal Opera House, Convent Garden in January, 2003 and one of the most pleasing aspects of it is that the producer has achieved unity of music, text, and staging. As the conductor says, "you can be an old man like me or a little girl of seven..." and the 'Flute' will still enfold you in its trifold magic.The designer, John Macfarlane chose an unusually dark Baroque setting--"When will this endless night be over?"--but there are flashes of brilliance, some of them paying homage to Ingmar Bergman's version of this opera, e.g. the scene in the Speaker of the Temple's study, the trials by water and fire, Pamina's attempted suicide, and Sarastro's final exit with the flute (although this Sarastro doesn't toss it gleefully into the air).One of the most extraordinary aspects of this production is its Papageno. Simon Keenlyside is a nervy, cynical birdcatcher. He is not simple, so much as burned-out. This interpretation makes his attempted suicide seem very much in character, but I had trouble believing that he would live happily ever after with Ailish Tynan's brassy Papagena.The Austrian bass Franz-Josef Selig is a portly, paternal Sarastro. The low Fs of "O Isis und Osiris" are no challenge to his dark voice, but he is less successful with the second great bass aria, "In diesen heilgen Hallen" which sounds a bit shouted and effortful. His speaking voice resonates with deep, mellow calm, and I'd almost rather hear him talk than sing.The Queen of the Night, Diana Damrau will cause the hair on the back of your neck to rise up with her unearthly arias. She was voted "Opernwelt's" Young Singer of the Year in 1999 and I hope to hear more of her. She commanded the stage and the Night, as well as every difficult passage that Mozart wrote for her.Will Hartmann as Tamino is a little pinched at top, but suitably noble. He is an excellent, believable prince. Dorothea Röschmann is his sturdily-sung Pamina. Usually her suicide attempt is more believable than Papageno's, but not in this production. She is more of a Ceres than a frightened, abducted Persephone.Adrian Thomson's Monostatos and his cohorts wore period fright-perukes and lots of lipstick. Perfect! Their costumes and cavorting reminded me of the 'minuet scene' in "Fearless Vampire Killers."Thomas Allen is a special treat as the Speaker of the Temple, although the gorgeous orrery almost steals the scene in his study.Sir Colin's comment on the meaning of "Die Zauberflöte," "The struggle to attain perfection is where all value lies" also applies to productions of this opera. That is why I think you should experience both this conductor's version, as well as Ingmar Bergman's 1975 film.I recently attended the most enchanting of 'Flutes' with sets designed by Maurice Sendak, and nothing will ever supercede Ingmar Bergman's production in my heart, but Sir Colin's 'Flute' is a close third."
jgarcia112 | NJ United States | 10/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am in complete agreement with the previous reviewer - this production is a marvel. All things considered, this is perhaps the finest and most stylish realization of Zauberflote I've ever seen, and indeed one of the best productions of any opera that I've experienced, either on stage or DVD. This is one of those rare productions where everything comes together perfectly - a great cast, wonderful sets, strong direction, amazing costumes, and top notch conducting & orchestral playing.My hat must go off to David McVicar for pulling off brilliantly what is in my opinion the most difficult of Mozart's operas to stage convincingly. In fact, this is the first production of Zauberflote where I really felt that the staging was worthy of the music. While I have always loved the music, I have generally not been that impressed whenever I saw the opera performed - too many productions try to make it more cutesy or humorous than it really is, whereas in fact, Zauberflote is a very serious opera, more dark than light... McVicar realizes this, and gives us a Zauberflote that is appropriately weighty, dramatic and mysterious without shortchanging the more humorous aspects of the score. Bravo to whoever designed the costumes as well - I especially like the way they embrace the wierd and grotesque in the portrayal of Monostatos and the Queen of the Night. The cast is a very strong one. Dorthea Roschmann is a real flesh-and-blood Pamina, who sings with a full-bodied tone and tremendous dramatic intensity. Tamino and Papageno are both well served by Will Hartmann and Simon Keenlyside, and Franz-Jospeh Selig is a noble Sarastro. My greatest praise however, goes to Diana Damrau who is the most amazingly scary Queen of the Night I have ever seen. She hits every note in her two big arias (no small feat) but it's her acting that is really incredible. She gives the most chilling overall portrayal I've ever seen, bar none. Wow...Secondary roles are all ably cast as well. This is a big-time winner, and I recommend it to anyone interested in a DVD of this opera. Sound quality is very good, picture quality is good but a bit grainy at times (it appears to have been shot on digital film). 5 stars without question."
Actually... 4 1/2 Stars.
Larkitten | 09/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This production is stunning! The orchestration is crisp and brilliant, the singers were amazing (their voices had so much color, the singing was expressive), and the scenery was lovely (not too gaudy). I really liked how it was set up in the 18th-century, with the priests posing as the men of the Enlightenment. I kept on thinking, "so where's Voltaire?"
The voices: * Tamino had a darkness to it that brought the character to life. He didn't seem like a dumb, little rich boy, and it gave him maturity and dimention. * Pamina had a soft, innocent ring, but also grown up. The voice was expressive and full of emotion. Her "Ach, ich Fuehl's" was GORGEOUS!
Keenlyside (Papageno) and Damrau (Queen of the Night) clearly stood out above all.
Keenlyside's Papageno was soooooooo believable. I found myself laughing at his gestures (musical and physical) as well as his facial expressions. What an energetic man! I can't imagine a better Papageno.
Damrau's Queen was AWESOME! Her voice is powerful and elastic. The woman did not bark the high notes, as most sopranos do, she SUNG them! -- and what a voice!!!
The sore moments: The 3 boys... they were flat most of the time and their harmonies were not happening... at all. They are the reason I gave this otherwise amazing production 4 1/2 stars."
Get it! Get it! Get it now!!
adubash | Chapel Hill, NC | 12/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is no disagreement with any of the reviewers here - this performance blew me away and had me completely enthralled. I bought this recording for simon keenlyside and colin davis, but all the main characters are fantastic.To start with the queen of the night, diana damrau has to be heard and SEEN to be believed..she sings and acts her heart out - this is the most exciting portrayal of the queen I have ever witnessed. Will Hartmann and Dorothea Roschmann are excellent as tamino and pamina, and simon keenlyside is as brilliant and touching as his review in opera news claims.The sets and costumes are marvelously tasteful, the conducting is magnificent, and the performances have you laughing one moment, excited the next, and in delicate ecstacy after that. I cannot count the number of times this DVD had me jumping off my couch and yelling bravo! bravAA! to my TV screen. How often does something this perfect come by? GET IT NOW!!!!"