Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Die Zauberflöte – Zurich 2000 (Part 1: Light and Reason and Freemasonry)

During the Overture, Tamino reads a book, (the set is some sort of library/temple combo) and falls asleep. Is this going to be staged as a dream sequence? Yup. Or…no. Actually the audience is more likely to fall asleep.  The Zurich Zauberflöte of 2000 is a static staging, but not in the way that makes you pay attention like Robert Wilson’s Orphée. It’s static in a way that makes you start making a mental grocery list. 
Although I have issues with the staging, this disc is worth checking out for fine music-making. I got it mostly because I really wanted to see Malin Hartelius as Pamina.  (Every time she entered, I thought, “She’s so pretty!” She sings really well too.)

So here is some good news: Franz Welser-Möst has full control of the orchestra and a delicate hand when necessary. He provides solid support to his singers, and plays the “Papageno pipes” so well that Anton Scharinger stops even pretending to play. Papageno is in fact the strongest characterization.  He has some cute business, and his interactions with the Priest, who grows increasingly impatient with him, are highlights of Act 2.
Papageno, with special guest Franz Welser-Möst

Die Königen der Nacht (KdN), Elena Mosuc spins out the coloratura in what seems to be a signature role for her; and she has the nicest gown. (She is a super Zerbinetta in the Claus Guth Ariadne.) Matti Salminen as Sarastro basically has to look alternately stern and paternal, and sing low, which he does beautifully! I almost always love the Three Ladies, and played for comedy, they are great this time. They are very competitive­–always talking over one another, and The Third Lady seems to have an attention span issue.
Tamino is Piotr Beczala, who has a strong tenor with a bit of a “sob” that I don’t really care for in Mozart; but his characterization is less wimpy than many other Taminos. 97% of the time, Malin Hartelius rocks it as Pamina. However, I feel like the director abandoned her for Ach, ich fuhls. She adopts a formal recital stance, and conveys honest emotion in her facial expressions; but her body language says, “Hmmm, I feel like I should be doing something here.”

Pamina sings beautifully but seems distracted by 
the lack of stage direction. 

Speaking of the director, Jonathan Miller had an interesting idea that I feel he failed to follow through.  He set the action in the time of Mozart, and vaguely invokes the French revolution.  He told an interviewer that the Queen of the Night is the Empress Maria Theresa, and the opera is about light and reason and freemasonry.*

*More about light and reason and freemasonry in Part 2: Pounced into eternal night.

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