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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
La Flûte Enchantée (Die Zauberflöte), K620 - opera in two acts (1791)
Sarastro – Tomislav Lavoie (bass); La Reine de la Nuit – Lisa Mostin (soprano); Tamino – Mathias Vidal (tenor); Pamina – Florie Valiquette (soprano); Papageno – Marc Scoffoni (baritone); Monostatos – Olivier Trommenschlager (baritone), Papagena – Pauline Feracci (soprano)Première Dame – Suzanne Jérôme (soprano); Deuxième Dame – Marie Gautrot (mezzo); Troisième Dame – Méoldie Ruvio (mezzo); L’Orateur – Matthieu Lecroart (bass baritone ); Premiere Prêtre/Homme en Armure – Mathhieu Chapuis (tenor); Deuxieme Prêtre/ Homme en Armure – Jean-Christophe Lanièce (baritone); Première Enfant – Emma de La Selle (soprano); Deuxième Enfant – Tanina Laoues (mezzo ); Troisième Enfant – Garance Laporte Duriez (mezzo)
Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet
rec. live, January 2020, l’Opéra Royal du Château de Versailles
Sound Format: PCM Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround; Picture Format 16:9, 1080i; All Regions Subtitles in English, German
Booklet with text and translations in French, English,German
Reviewed in PCM Stereo.

This new release from the Château de Versailles label has been manufactured in a deluxe package that includes 2 CDs, a DVD and a Blu-ray which covers any possible way one might want to experience this product. It is a pity that the performance in question doesn’t quite merit the presentation that it has been given. Mozart’s final opera was presented at a series of performances at Versailles in early 2020 which offered the public the chance to hear the work presented in a French translation that had been originally published in 1897 by Choudens. I doubt that hearing the opera in French would be a significant drawback for most non-German speaking buyers; it certainly wasn’t for me.

The production by Cécile Roussat and Julien Lubeck derives from Liège and seems to have been conceived with young children in mind. It is bright and colourful and the basic premise is a good one. The production centers on a very young Prince Tamino who is being prepared for a good night’s sleep during the overture. The action of the opera is then an extended dream sequence involving the toys that have been seen in his room and a large portrait of his mother who becomes the Queen of the Night. The concept reminds me of a similar one by ballet director Yuri Grigorovich in his 1960s production of The Nutcracker for the Bolshoi Ballet where all the dolls played with by the children in Act One came to life in Act Two. It worked well for the Bolshoi for decades so there is no reason to think it shouldn’t work for Mozart here. However, the directing team have made a fatal error in their approach to this work. What is most objectionable is to saddle Pamina with a silly persona of a stuffed doll. If you think of Sally Ann Howes in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang you will get the idea. Papageno has also been reduced by the doll concept which, when combined with the heavy makeup that both artists are wearing, dehumanizes the only real human elements in the story, at least when viewing it at home. There is not much for adults to latch on to in this production. To be fair to the directors, they have made some really inventive choices in things like having the three ladies be walking, singing pieces of architecture and the delightful bed linens that regularly spring to life. On the whole the staging is like a big piece of sticky candy which kids will love but adults should probably stay away from.

The singing in general is rather disappointing. Among the best of the cast is Matthias Vidal as a Prince Tamino, who spends most of the opera in a pair of striped pajamas. Of the entire cast he is the one who enters most wholeheartedly into the production concept. It is quite endearing how he immerses himself body and soul into becoming a child. Vocally, he has a very light but pleasant tenor with the odd lapse of pitch. His performance is thoroughly enjoyable on the video, but he won’t oust memories of Wunderlich, Gedda, Burrows or Jerusalem in the best of the recordings on CD. Florie Valiquette has a charming stage presence as Pamina despite being hampered by the doll persona she has been given. She is permitted to act in a more natural manner in Act Two, which allows her to make more of an impact with her pretty but fairly lightweight tone. Lisa Mostin is a Queen of the Night whose tone spreads disturbingly on nearly every sustained note she sings. Tomislav Lavoie as Sarastro displays a generally attractive sound but doesn’t quite possess the required tonal depth for the lowest notes of the role. Another real pleasure is the beautifully secure singing of Matthieu Lecroart as the Speaker of the Temple. Olivier Trommenschlager’s beautiful voice is also a real asset as Monostatos. The lower period pitch allows Trommenschlager’s baritone to take on this role, something I had not encountered before. It is, however, anyone’s guess as to exactly what this Monostatos is actually supposed to be. The designers have imagined him as a sort of cross between a hunchbacked pirate and Rapunzel. Marc Scoffoni’s Papageno does not make much of an impression mainly because he is overwhelmed by his makeup and costume; another doll concept gone wrong. He also has the extra challenge of handling live birds which he does very deftly. Vocally he is pleasant but anonymous; Walter Berry and Herman Prey have nothing to fear from him. The various boys and ladies and Papagena all do reasonably well. Papagena has a marvellously inventive costume as the old lady.

Almost, but not quite buried in this production is the generally excellent Concert Spirituel, conducted animatedly by Hervé Niquet. His reading of the score is lithe yet firm. The orchestra sound absolutely beautiful in the acoustic properties of the opera house at Versailles. The recording engineering is first rate as is the picture on the Blu-Ray. Camera direction keeps up well with this very active staging.

Mike Parr

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