After initial doubts when this CD arrived to review
I am now rather enthusiastic about the principle of ‘Opera Explained’
as a general introduction to opera and the actual recording. This is
the ninth recording in the Naxos ‘Opera Explained’ series and after
listening to the recording I can see the merit in providing a series
of non-technical introductions to the major operas in the repertoire.
In particular this release will be extremely useful to introduce schoolchildren
to opera for music appreciation. For the novice opera lover this will
be the perfect way of getting to know ‘The Magic Flute’ opera before
attending a performance. Furthermore I can see the usefulness of listening
to this disc before actually investing in a full price recording of
the opera. However for the seasoned opera lover who is familiar with
The Magic Flute there will be very little or no reason to invest.
The first 14 minutes or so of the disc are taken up
with a moderately simple spoken biography of Mozart together with a
varied selection of musical excerpts from his most significant works.
The level of the offered biography does assume that the listener has
no previous knowledge of Mozart which may prove tedious to the average
classical music lover. Throughout the recording, musical highlights
from the opera are interspersed with clear and concise spoken explanations
of the plot and various scenes. Any potential purchaser wishing to use
this as a ‘highlights’ disc should look elsewhere as the narration is
so interwoven with the music as to make pure music listening unachievable.
The Magic Flute, composed in 1791 was Mozart’s last
greatest achievement and reinforced his reputation as perhaps the greatest
composer of all time. This Naxos release on super budget price uses
the music from their acclaimed double set of the complete opera on 8.660030/31
and certainly does justice to Mozart’s greatest opera.
The satisfying and characterful cast are relatively
unknown, with the exception of Kurt Rydl, who sings the role of Sarastro
to great effect. The outstanding performance from Hellen Kwon as ‘Queen
of the Night’ must be singled out for special praise. She conveys a
real sense of emotion to her role together with distinguished technical
assurance. There is an affectionate and mainly assured reading from
conductor Michael Halasz who elicits acceptable performances from both
the Failoni Orchestra and Hungarian Festival Chorus. The narrator David
Timson is first class and despite the obvious technical difficulties
in balancing speech and music the overall sound quality is agreeable.
This Naxos release serves its purpose admirably. The
spoken explanations are entertaining, thorough and informative. The
performances from all concerned are excellent and the sound quality
is more than adequate.