For most opera-lovers, this Zauberflöten DVD will likely
be disqualified if only on account of its wildly mediocre singing.
Perhaps the voices were not well recorded, either. It’s difficult
to tell what or who the main culprits are but none of the singers
– save perhaps Matti Salminen’s Sarastro – are particularly worth
is a shame in principle, because I find a Nikolaus Harnoncourt–Martin
Kušej Mozart-collaboration a very exciting proposition given their
spectacular and dramatic La Clemenza di Tito production
from Salzburg. Too bad, then, that the production matches the
is not on account of any lack of ideas or their quality, or a
surplus of director’s ego – but sadly for execution. Kušej and
stage designer Rolf Glittenberg explain their principally genial
concept of setting The Magic Flute as a string of fantastical
episodes in the mysteriously dark cellar of a house. This is all
from a child’s point of view and imagination however the reality
of the production – half “Terminal”, half “Snakes on a Plane”
– ruins it.
the envisioned setting been translated more effectively, the Three
Ladies “of the night” being blind might have come off better.
The grayish basement-imp of a Queen of the Night might have invoked
a dreamy or nightmarish sense. And instead of covering Papageno
with feathers, dousing his suit with bird shit might have been
“compellingly effective” - as a Vienna on-line magazine described
the production. Instead, according to Zurich’s major daily, it’s
not “astoundingly clever”; it’s just too clever by half.
A good modern Magic
Flute would be highly welcome, and if Kušej were to try again,
I’d be very eager indeed to see it. But this wimpishly sung production
can’t possibly be the realization of his own ambitions. Harnoncourt’s
flexible and pointed conducting is not nearly enough to rescue
Jens F. Laurson