Outstanding film; great historical document
Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 12/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here is a real find: a 1971 film on DVD of Die
Zauberflöte, directed by Peter Ustinov, done by the Hamburg
State Opera, conducted by Horst Stein.
Check out this cast:
Tamino: Nicolai Gedda
Pamina: Edith Mathis
Sarastro: Hans Sotin
Königin der Nacht: Cristina Deutekom
Papageno: William Workman
Papagena: Carol Malone
Monostatos: Franz Grundheber
Speaker: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
2 Men in Armour: Helmut Melchert, Kurt Moll
For me, this film ranks as one of the "best of" releases
this year. Yet another outstanding release of this opera. I didn't know this film existed, but I am sure
glad all these treasures are being pulled out of the
vaults. This is one of the supreme examples of Mozart
performances of its time. Peter Ustinov's work created
fantastic results: whimsical, grave, and altogether
delightful. Everything, sets, costumes are on the
traditional side, but they are colorful, truly
fairy-tale-like ~~~ it's a magical concept. Even the
lip-synching of the music is done better than you might
expect; it doesn't look too obvious (well, most of the
The most striking and magisterial performance here is Hans
Sotin's truly God-like Sarastro. The role has, in my
estimation never been better sung. Or acted. Tall, very
distinguished, handsome and noble in bearing, the youthful
bloom in Sotin's tone is of a refulgent, sappy beauty you
rarely hear in this role. I was totally unprepared for
this. The line, legato and phrasing are of the first rank:
only Ulrik Cold in the Bergman film can vie for a majestic
Sarastro of the highest order.
Nicolai Gedda's Tamino. Perfect diction, full-bodied tone,
welcome from the nasal tenorinos you usually hear, and
exquisite phrasing throughout. He looks a bit old for the
role with a terrible wig, but he acts and portrays the
young prince with a surprising degree of involvement.
Here we have the young Edith Mathis, a beautiful Pamina,
both in presence and voice. Creamy, appealing tone, a
superb actress, expressive, winning and very touching. The
aria is ideal.
The two love birds, William Workman and Carol Malone, are
wonderful. Workman has an open, friendly face and fresh
tone, and is an endearing Papageno. He and Malone are funny
and sweet together, their mating duet marvelously charming.
Cristina Deutekom - a rare opportunity to see her preserved
on a filmed document. At the time, an unparalleled Queen.
Big, glinty tone, dramatic, and thrusting. The high Fs
spark off like hammers on anvil: this is one Queen you
NEVER will think sounds younger than the daughter.
Disappointingly, she does not act very effectively for the
camera; much of the time she just stares right into it. Had
this been the way she was directed? In the first aria, the
camera is simply fixed right on her. She doesn't move - at
all. The voice is far more expressive than her face. She
comes off much better in the second aria, and boy, does she
wallop the high Fs (it is a pity that somuch of her
dialogue was cut). It is much the same as on the Solti
recording. The gargled, famously disconnected notes in the
triplets are much the same. Nevertheless, this kind of a
voice in this role surmounts all reservations.
Dietrich-Fischer Dieskau is luxury casting as the Speaker.
He looks slightly bemused, but the gravitas works.
Franz Grundheber is a merry Monostatos, reveling in his
So, then, another excellent Zauberflöte on DVD. Best of
all, a standout of a historic document. None of these
singers were often captured in a visual format, and this
one does them all proud.
Superb Star-Studded 'Magic Flute' Directed by Peter Ustinov
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 11/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1971 there was an acclaimed new production of Die Zauberflöte at the Hamburg Opera directed by Peter Ustinov; this was during that house's golden period under the artistic direction of Rolf Liebermann. The production was taken into a TV studio and filmed, using the original sets and costumes, and this DVD is the result. It was shown on German television and wildly praised at the time. As far as I know this is its first release on DVD. There are only some mild drawbacks. First, the video quality is slightly grainy when compared with today's digital video. Second, the sound is in mono, very clear and lifelike mono to be sure, but mono nonetheless. Otherwise this presentation is absolutely first-class even by today's standards. Indeed, the casting is so amazing rich and deep that I doubt it could be matched these days.
For sure, the plusses far outnumber the minuses. Can you imagine casting so luxurious that the small part of The Speaker is taken by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau? Most of the cast were at the very height of their powers, and every single one them physically attractive as well as in good voice. The young (and handsome) Hans Sotin as Sarastro, laser-voiced Cristina Deutekom as a musically thrilling and spookily dramatic Queen of the Night, Franz Grundheber as a comically threatening Monastatos. The young, full-voiced American baritone William Workman as Papageno is a comic gem. His Papagena is taken beautifully by the pert American soprano Carol Malone.
Best of all, though, are the leading couple: a still-young Nicolai Gedda, in splendid voice, as Tamino, and the gorgeous and gorgeous-voiced Swiss soprano Edith Mathis as Pamina. This is a dream couple, believe me. The production is under the musical direction of the redoubtable Horst Stein and the Hamburg Philharmonic in the pit is excellent. The Hamburg chorus is full-voiced, capable of causing goosebumps in the ceremonial choral passages.
Peter Ustinov's direction is both traditional and creative. We have none of the liberties so often taken by European opera stage directors, yet Ustinov manages to give us small felicities (and not just of the comic bits) as Tamino and Pamina make their way to the final denouement.
I absolutely adored the Colin Davis/Covent Garden DVD of 'Magic Flute' and gave it a rave review three years ago. But this 35 year old production goes right up there to the top of the list with that one. I know I'll be viewing it again and again. (And for what it's worth, my 22-month-old grandson sat unmoving on my lap, transfixed by the comic action and colorful costumes as well as -- one likes to imagine -- the music. It's never too early to introduce the young ones to Magic Flute, right?)
[Sound: Mono; Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian; Picture format: 4:3 Color; Region Code: 0 (worldwide); TT=156 mins.]
Wise and funny
Michael Berger | Atlanta, Ga | 08/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a wise and delightful production, caring both for Mozart's solemnity and his comedy; in ways it feels like Bergman's Magic Flute, only lacking his cinemographic imagination. The cast is excellent; all the major performers singing both movingly and very well. The innocence of Edith Mathis' Pamina, the forthrightness and innocence of Gedda's Tamino, the calm wisdom of Sotin's Sarastro, and the humane comedy of Workman's Papageno all shine. Fischer-Diskeau's performace as the Speaker is a bonus here. Horst Stein's conducting is fine, if not extraordinary, and Peter Ustinov's staging the best I have seen other than Bergman's and less self-indulgent than Bergman's."
A WONDERFUL TRADITIONAL PRODUCTION WITH A PERFECT CAST
R. Olsavicky | Butler, Pa. USA | 07/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This FLUTE make strike some as old fashioned; and yes it is in the best sense of the word. It sure beats the latest Flute from Salzburg Mozart22.
The cast is ideal; in fact perfect. The production values are true to the composer, score and libretto. We even have a Papageno who has feathers and is really a bird catcher. Nicolai Gedda is in rich, free full voice. A virile Tamino. Only Fritz Wunderlich outshines him. Cristina Deutekom is a true STAR FLAMING QUEEN. One of the great ones. Edith Mathis is ideal as Pamina. Hans Sotin is a perfect resonant Sarastro with a full rich low F. The sets and costumes work and are never distracting or as in more recent productions ludicrous or disappointing. Mono sound and an older video technology will only prove a problem to those who demand the newest and highest in sound and video. The sound can be a little strident at times in the strings. The orchestra and conductor are fine. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS MAGIC FLUTE; IT TRULY HAS SOME MAGIC ABOUT IT!!!"