Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Die Zauberflöte
Isolde Siebert (soprano) - Queen of the Night; Suzie LeBlanc (soprano) - Pamina; Christoph Genz (tenor) - Tamino; Cornelius Hauptmann (bass) - Sarastro; Stephan Genz (baritone) - Papageno; Marie Kuijken (soprano) - Papagena; Philip Defrancq (tenor) - Monostatos; Stephan Schreckenberger (bass) - Speaker; Inge van de Kerkhove (soprano) - First Lady; Patrizia Hardt (mezzo) - Second Lady; Petra Noskaiova (contralto) - Third Lady; Robin Schlotz (soprano), Frederic Jost (mezzo), Niklas Mallmann (alto) - Three Boys;
Chorus and Orchestra La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken
rec. 2, 4 July 2004, Basilica Notre Dame, Beaune
Libretto available at www.brilliantoperacollection.com
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94239 [3 CDs: 69:53 + 44:34 + 43:14]

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.
Göran Forsling 

At super-budget price, it can’t be faulted.