Die Zauberflöte is such a truly magical
work that it’s quite an achievement to give a flat performance. Yet
somehow this DVD contains just that; hard to put your finger on what
is lacking, for the singing and playing is of an acceptable standard
and the acting is a better than you often get from opera singers. Yet
the whole production resolutely fails to take wing, the big give-away
being the polite ripples of laughter from the Zurich audience, dutiful
rather than truly tickled.
The mise-en-scène is heavy on symbolism
– lots of pyramidal structures, libraries and so on - but very light
on naturalism. So no serpent or monster of any kind pursues Tamino at
the start; he simply looks up from the book he happens to be reading
to see the Three Ladies who have ‘saved’ him. There is no attempt to
depict or suggest in any way the trials that he and Tamina go through
towards the end; they just walk behind a screen and walk out again,
apparently transformed. And so on.
As I’ve said, some of the singing and acting is good.
Elena Mosuc’s Queen of the Night is superbly sung, but doesn’t have
the frisson of evil about her that the ‘Sternflammende Königin’
surely must. Piotr Baczala’s Prince Tamino appears to be too thick to
realise what is going on at all and sings unimaginatively. Malin Hertelius’s
Pamina, on the other hand, sings her main aria, the wonderful ‘Ach,
ich fühl’s’, very touchingly, though the production is unhelpful
here, as in so many places, in having her stand motionless and stare
expressionlessly into the middle-distance. Matti Salminen as Sarastro
sings with appropriate solemnity but looks, unfortunately, remarkably
like the Young Mr.Grace from BBC television’s ‘Are you being served?’,
and I did wonder if he was really well enough to be on stage. Surely
Sarastro should be a mature but vigorous and commanding figure?
Most of the intentional humour comes, not unexpectedly,
from Anton Scharinger as bird-man Papageno. He struggles manfully for
his laughs in the leaden production, and manages to make the best of
one or two nice touches, such as the active participation of conductor
Franz Welser-Möst in the Bird-Catcher’s song – playing the pan-pipes
that Papageno intermittently whistles merrily upon.
Even allowing for the fact that this is a live performance,
the balance between stage and pit is seriously awry. The engineers seem
to have taken the view that all we really need to hear is the singers,
so that the ‘accompaniment’ must be kept down as much as possible, with
the result that much of the ravishing instrumental detail disappears
without trace, thus removing a major dimension of the opera’s greatness.
Sorry to be negative, but the fact is that this is
a most disappointing issue. The incomparable Bergmann realisation stays
miles out in front as the best-ever filmed version of the piece, quirky
though it is.
Resolutely fails to take wing … see Full Review