Beaune in the Burgundy region of France has become well known
for its Baroque Opera Festival in July each year. This year
(2012) there will be performances by among others Paul McCreesh,
Christophe Rousset, Rinaldo Alessandrini, Marc Minkowski, William
Christie and René Jacobs: the cream of baroque conductors.
Find more information here.
This Zauberflöte was recorded in the 12th
century Basilica Notre Dame in July 2004 and is heard in the
original 1791 Vienna version. This involves a large amount of
spoken dialogue, which explains why a third CD was needed. Usually
the dialogue is abridged, both in live performances and recordings.
Several early recordings cut out the dialogue altogether: Beecham,
Karajan, Böhm and even Klemperer. Here we get all of it
and for repeated listening this can be a bit tiresome. Fortunately
the dialogue is separately tracked. Some of these episodes are
long indeed, thus the section after Papageno’s Der
Vogelfänger runs to more than six minutes. The section
just before Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen
is five minutes long.
Not so long ago I reviewed William Christie’s Zauberflöte,
a studio recording based on Christie’s and Robert Carsen’s
Aix-en-Provence production from 1994. For the recording Christie
brought in a group of actors for the spoken dialogue. It worked
reasonably well, even though there are mismatches between the
voices of the singers and those of the actors. Christie also
trimmed the dialogue. In most respects Christie’s and
Kuijken’s recordings are comparable. Both orchestras are
period bands, both conductors have their roots in Baroque music.
The leaner sound of a period band fits the out-door character
of Die Zauberflöte. Christie is the lighter of the
two; Kuijken somewhat heavier and also more dramatic, at least
to begin with. The three ladies sound more aggressive than most
of their counterparts on other recordings. On the other hand
the Queen of the Night, though singing musically, lacks the
demonic part of her character and there are some questionable
leisurely tempos. By and large there is nothing seriously wrong
with Kuijken’s reading and La Petite Bande play excellently.
There are some frightening sound effects: just before the Queen
of the Night’s first appearance. Listening with headphones
during a coach-ride the effect was so tremendous that I thought
we had crashed into another vehicle.
The three boys, members of the famous Tölzer Knabenchor,
are possibly the best on any recording I’ve heard. Isolde
Siebert’s Queen of the Night is technically without blemish
but a little bloodless. Her daughter Pamina, on the other hand,
is lovely and full of character, her aria Ach, ich fühl’s,
es ist verschwunden (CD 2 tr.17) one of the best things
on this set. Papagena is a bit over the top as the old woman
but otherwise fine.
Of the men Christoph Genz is a light-voiced and slightly pale
Tamino, but he sings his arias beautifully, while his brother
Stephan is a lively and charming Papageno. Just listen to his
Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen (CD 3 tr. 5). The Monostatos
is fairly anonymous and the Speaker makes little impression.
Down in the basement, voice-wise, Cornelius Hauptmann has all
the deep notes and sings with warmth, especially in In diesen
heil’gen Hallen (CD 2 tr. 13).
The recording can’t be faulted and at Brilliant’s
super-budget price it digs no big holes in one’s wallet.
I prefer Christie’s version by some margin but it is more
expensive, despite being issued on only two discs.