Your clickable banner could be here: details
    If you cannot see an advert immediately above this line click here.


Editor: Marc Bridle


Webmaster: Len Mullenger





WWW MusicWeb

Search Music Web with FreeFind

Any Review or Article


Seen and Heard Opera Review

Mozart, Die Zauberflöte, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, 16th July 2004 (H-T W)
Each new production at Glyndebourne Festival Opera usually holds some kind of surprise in store; but it is in the nature of a surprise that it will not necessarily work out. "Die Zauberflöte" has always played an important part in Glyndebourne´s history beginning with its first production in 1935 by Carl Ebert and conducted by Fritz Busch, the famous artistic founders of this then still dubious enterprise John Christie provided at his manor in the East Sussex downs. Four further new productions followed, of which I remember the last three vividly – by far the most magical having been the production by Franco Enriquez - and designed by Emanuele Luzatti - in 1963 (and which has been revived four times), and the John Cox/David Hockney production in 1978, which did not make any great impact. The last new production by Peter Sellars (1990) created a scandal by transferring the action on to the high ways of California, but with hindsight it proved to be a fascinating interpretation. Thirteen years have passed since its only revival in 1991 and it seemed right to open the 70th anniversary with a new "Zauberflöte".

And what a s
urprise – Glyndebourne confronted its audience with an entirely new concept: "Die Zauberflöte – The Musical" directed by Adrian Noble.Did it work? Well, for those, who love musicals I am sure it did. But for those who believe in Mozart’s genius it must have been a frustrating, uneven and mainly boring experience. The spirit was missing and so were stage personalities, with the exception of an overpowering Papageno (Jonathan Lemalu) and the three ladies (Tatiana Monogarova, Julianne de Villiers and Romina Basso) - as long as they sang. The moment they were engaged in over long and silly dialogues, their German diction was just awful.

Anthony Ward created an ideal and simple setting: colourful abstract prospects and black flats moving diagonally across the stage made for a great variety of spaces. His costumes were with one or two exceptions fine and even the serpent in the first scene was impressive. The three boys (Leo Baker, Jake Alden-Falconer and Milo Harries) possessed beautifully light voices and were given charming entrances, be it hanging on balloons, driving a three-seater bicycle around the stage or flying on it across it. But the huge tamed animals – as funny as they were – made a mockery out of Tamino’s great aria "Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton…", especially as this highly talented, but not yet fully grown Tamino (Pavol Breslik), entirely disappeared under the wings of a penguin. This aria was a complete write-off taken over by animals. Similar things happened after the interval. The second act started with some obscure, thin and hardly audible baroque music, while the audience were still talking. During the `March of the priests´ only Sarastro (Peter Rose), the Speaker (Gerd Grochowski) and the first and second priests (Michael Druiett and Alan Oke) were on stage lighting candles, while all the other priests took position in the stalls. Sarastro’s persuasion to accept Tamino into their brotherhood was overproduced and had laughter on its side. Later on, while Papageno and Tamino are left alone in silence, Tamino played his flute ex tempore for quite some time – a melody, which could have been by Andrew Lloyd Webber, but certainly not by Mozart. Papageno’s famous aria "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen…." consists of three strophes; after the second, Papageno stopped and, sitting on the floor towards the pit, asked the conductor, in English if he could sing one further strophe. The conductor answered him back that he had to consult the orchestra first, which, of course, it was not too happy about, but finally agreed – utter rubbish.

This entire production, more or less directed underneath the proscenium arch, mirrored the playbill of the world premiere. There it says on top: `Die Zauberflöte. A grand opera in two acts, by Emanuel Schickaneder.’ Mozart is only mentioned in small print underneath the cast. The question of how much dialogue to use has been asked countless times. I have to admit that before going into journalism I had been a staff producer with various big opera companies and had been in charge of four completely different versions of "The Magic Flute", of which one was conducted by the legendary Klaus Tennstedt. We always agreed that the dialogue plays an important part in this fairy tale journey from darkness to light, but only as long as it does not compromise the music and its message of the triumph of humanity. Tennstedt never compromised  - not even for Glyndebourne, where he should have conducted the Peter Hall production of "Don Giovanni", (in the end, they disagreed about the happy ending which Hall wanted to use.) Listening to Tennstedt's interpretation of "Die Zauberflöte" made one’s flesh creep. This did not happen at all during this production's mixture of music and overstretched, as well as overproduced, dialogue.

One of the reasons may have been the uneven casting. With the exception of Papagena (Claire Ormshaw) neither the Queen of the Night (Cornelia Götz), who had been forced into far too many different characterisations instead of symbolising just evil, nor Pamina (Lisa Milne), who seemed to have slight difficulties with her part, or Monostratos (Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke), a hectic and weak `moor´, nor even Sarastro, who fought with constant intonation difficulties and embodied none of the necessary authority, possessed any persuasion.

The main reason for the `musical´ character of this ill-fated "Magic Flute" rested with music director Vladimir Jurowski, conducting his first ever Mozart opera, and his way of dealing with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The question remains: did he deliberately compromise to keep in tune with the production team or is he artistically convinced of his slow and totally uninspiring interpretation? Using a period orchestra must necessarily mean faster tempi to create tension, and a refusal to slow down, as the possibility of developing tension by using intense vibrato in the string section, never existed. Jurowski seemed to know the score inside out, at least as far as I could follow from his conducting, but why did he totally overstep Mozart’s tempo markings? He followed none of the alla breve instructions; instead, he conducted the overture too slowly and without any esprit and fire – and that never really changed.  It was Fritz Busch at Glyndebourne who showed us that it is possible to play the right Mozart tempi with a conventional modern orchestra at a time when nobody thought of trying to recreate the original sound. Now, Jurowski makes the point that one can play extremely slowly even with an historically orientated orchestra; never mind that it does not make sense, sounds dreadful, sometimes like a badly oiled old door, and produces neither breath nor tension. The duet "Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen....", marked andantino, which means slightly faster than andante, felt like the result of a sleeping pill. The same counted for "In diesen hei´gen Hallen…", marked larghetto and not largo. Only in Monostrato´s aria "Alles fühlt der Liebe Leiden....", which is marked allegro in 2/4, did he rightly speed up, but to the surprise of the tenor. Further, why so many ritardandi which created an unnecessary, irregular blood pressure and stopped the flow of the music.  This opera is not a spiritless and dull broadsheet to which Jurowski degraded it despite many fine details; it is Mozart’s ever-lasting musical testament full of joy, life and dignity.

On the 6th, 7th and 8th of January 1989 Roger Norrington presented "The Mozart Experience" in London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall culminating in a semi-staged performance of "Die Zauberflöte". Taking all the tempi markings seriously, including all alla breve settings – meaning that 4/4 becomes 2/4 – and using young voices, the result had been overwhelming and breathtaking. I knew then how this work should be brought to life – three of my happiest hours ever. It is only sad that in Glyndebourne, of all places, the highly intelligent and versatile current music director, an otherwise excellent musician, could make such a misjudgement. Maybe the time has come to put Mozart aside and leave it to future generation to rediscover him.


Hans-Theodore Wohlfahrt


Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page






MusicWeb - The International Web Site Founder: Len Mullenger [UK], Classical Editor: Rob Barnett [UK],  Regular Reviewers:   Steve Arloff [UK], Guy Aron [Australia], Tony Augarde [UK], Terry Barfoot [UK], Melinda Bargreen [USA], David J. Barker [Australia], Rob Barnett [UK], Nick Barnard [UK], Robert Beattie [UK], Dave Billinge [UK], Peter Bright [UK], Byzantion [UK], Colin Clarke [UK], Dominy Clements [Netherlands], Michael Cookson [UK], Hubert Culot [Belgium], Evan Dickerson [UK], Gavin Dixon [UK], Robert J. Farr [UK], Christopher Fifield [UK], Göran Forsling [Sweden], John France [UK], Patrick Gary [USA], Pierre Giroux [CAN], Paul C. Godfrey [UK], Michael Greenhalgh [UK], William Hedley [France], Gary Higginson [UK], Neil Horner [UK], Robert Hugill UK], David Jennings [UK], Bill Kenny [UK], William S Kreindler [USA], Ian Lace [UK], Em Marshall-Luck [UK], Oleg Ledeniov [USA]Rob Maynard [UK], David A McConnell [USA], Kirk McElhearn [France], Robert McKechnie [UK], Ralph Moore [RMo] [UK], Dan Morgan [UK], Margarida Mota-Bull [UK], Glyn Pursglove [UK], John Quinn [UK], Carla Rees [UK], Brian Reinhart [USA], Donald Satz [USA], Mark Sealey [USA], John Sheppard [UK], George Stacy, Kevin Sutton [USA], Bert Thompson [USA], Simon Thompson [UK], Zane Turner [Australia], Steve Vasta [UK], Johan van Veen [Netherlands], Raymond Walker [UK], Derek Warby [UK], Brian Wilson [UK], Jonathan Woolf [UK] Leslie Wright [USA]. A complete list of contributors can be seen here


Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

MusicWeb International thank Naxos for the no-strings use of their server to mount the website.