Covent Garden’s 2003 production of The Magic Flute is magnificent from a musical standpoint and more than that, it’s vastly entertaining. Visually, the production is a feast, the video quality here is extraordinary...
MOZART Die Zauberflöte • Colin Davis, cond; Will Hartmann (Tamino); Dorothea Röschmann (Pamina); Diana Damrau (Queen of the Night); Franz-Josef Selig (Sarastro); Simon Keenlyside (Papageno); Ailish Tynan (Papagena); Adrian Thompson (Monostatos); Gillian Webster (First Lady); Christine Rice (Second Lady); Yvonne Howard (Third Lady); Thomas Allen (Speaker of the Temple); Royal Op House O & Ch • BBC/OPUS ARTE 5002 (HD DVD: 182:00) Live: London 1/27/2003
& Illustrated synopsis, BBC “behind the scenes” feature, and Davis talk about Die Zauberflöte.
Covent Garden’s 2003 production of The Magic Flute, designed by John F. Macfarlane, directed by David McVicar, and conducted by Sir Colin Davis, is magnificent from a strictly musical standpoint. More than that, it’s vastly entertaining. The comedic elements of the story integrate far more comfortably than is often the case with Schikaneder’s high-minded (if vague) theme of a quest for enlightenment, particularly in the second act. The audience at this January 2003 performance laughs a great deal. Visually, the production is a feast, yet it doesn’t distract from the music, as does Julie Taymor’s current design in New York. The intention was to maintain an 18th-century feel but to play freely with that aesthetic: the costumes, for instance, are an imaginative mix of the Baroque, some sci-fi (The Three Ladies), with a little English Music Hall thrown in (Papageno wears a sweater vest with embroidered ducks and preposterous fowl-inspired headgear).
The cast is indeed superb, including both seasoned pros—Franz-Joseph Selig, Simon Keenlyside, and Thomas Allen (lavishly cast in the small role of the Speaker of the Temple)—and up-and-coming younger singers, most notably the remarkable Diana Damrau, who manages the vocal acrobatics of the Queen of the Night’s first aria while constantly on the move. Dorothea Röschmann is an appealing, very feminine Pamina: her second act “Ach ich fühls, es ist verschwunden,” one of Mozart’s finest, is exquisitely rendered. Her intended, Will Hartmann, has a voice that occasionally takes on a slightly leathery quality, but he’s an assertive and expressive leading man. Simon Keenlyside’s pleasing baritone is a given, but mostly he seems to be enjoying the opportunities for physical comedy that this production affords him. Keenlyside’s antics are taken up a notch with the arrival of a Papagena (Ailish Tynan) who is right out of The Benny Hill Show. Adrian Thompson’s foppish Monostatos is clearly not a villain to be taken too seriously and Selig’s plushly sung Sarastro provides a solid moral core to act II. The Three Ladies feel like extensions of the Queen’s will, as they should, and The Three Boys remind us that the English boy chorister tradition is alive and well.
Sir Colin Davis, associated with Mozart’s operas throughout his long career, leads with grace and drive, shaping the ensemble numbers effectively. The spoken dialogue isn’t treated as something to be rushed through; listening to the Queen of the Night’s speech to Pamina in the second act, you’d think you were at a West End theater. Chorus and orchestra perform as expected at the Royal Opera and the supernumeraries that are (intentionally) in view to manipulate the giant serpent at the beginning of the opera and accomplish other tasks throughout the evening do so with dramatic flair.
This HD DVD is Opus Arte’s third high-definition release, and the first opera. Swan Lake was covered in Fanfare 31:1 (pp. 27–29) and a second ballet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is reviewed elsewhere. As reported in the feature accompanying the Tchaikovsky review, The Royal Opera House recently purchased the Opus Arte label and, clearly, more high-def opera video is on the way. The video quality here is extraordinary, in terms of the richness of the color palette and detail—during the overture, the camera zooms in on a first violinist’s part and you can make out every note and dynamic marking. The two-channel sound, in a “lossless” format known as Dolby TrueHD, is excellent—robust and full, with good stereo spread and depth. We hear warmly textured string sound of the sort you get with SACD or DVD-Audio sources. Voices are beautifully characterized. I’m disappointed that I can’t report on the multichannel option as my player, an LG BH100, automatically down-converted the 5.1 version to stereo. This was not the case for the Opus Arte Swan Lake, for which the high-resolution audio format was DTS HD—multichannel worked just fine on that disc.
I think I’ve got my first 2008 Want List selection, and there are nine months until that copy deadline.
FANFARE: Andrew Quint
Simon Keenlyside, Dorothea Roschmann, Will Hartmann, Diana Damrou, Franz-Josef Selig
"...a mellow warmth that was deeply satisfying. Simon Keenlyside triumph as quite the most engaging Papageno I have ever encountered, while the Tamino and Pamina of Will Hartman and Dorothea Roschmann were stylish and musically satisfying. With an exceptional Queen of the Night, Diana Damrou, this is an evening no Mozart lover should miss" David Mellor, The Mail on Sunday
"Sir Colin Davis presides at his most avuncular...he lives every moment of the score and conveys all its profound humanity." - GRAMOPHONE
Region Code 0
Picture format 16:9 Anamorphic
Running time approx 160 minutes DVD 9
Sound format Dolby stereo and 5.1 surround
Menu language English
SUBTITLE LANGUAGES: English/French/Spanish
The internationally renowned Mozart interpreter Sir Colin Davis conducts the chorus and orchestra of the Royal Opera House and a glittering cast in David McVicar's 2003 production of Mozart's last opera recorded, in sumptuous surround sound, live at Covent Garden.
* BBC feature looks behind the scenes at this production
* Conductor Sir Colin Davis talks about Die Zauberflote
* Illustrated synopsis of the opera
* Illustrated booklet with biographies in English, French and Spanish