Here is a real find: a 1971 film on DVD of Die
Zauberflöte, directed by Peter Ustinov, done by the Hamburg
State Opera, conducted by Horst Stein.
Check out this cast:
Tamino: Nicolai Gedda
Pamina: Edith Mathis
Sarastro: Hans Sotin
Königin der Nacht: Cristina Deutekom
Papageno: William Workman
Papagena: Carol Malone
Monostatos: Franz Grundheber
Speaker: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
2 Men in Armour: Helmut Melchert, Kurt Moll
For me, this film ranks as one of the "best of" releases
this year. Yet another outstanding release of this opera. I didn't know this film existed, but I am sure
glad all these treasures are being pulled out of the
vaults. This is one of the supreme examples of Mozart
performances of its time. Peter Ustinov's work created
fantastic results: whimsical, grave, and altogether
delightful. Everything, sets, costumes are on the
traditional side, but they are colorful, truly
fairy-tale-like ~~~ it's a magical concept. Even the
lip-synching of the music is done better than you might
expect; it doesn't look too obvious (well, most of the
The most striking and magisterial performance here is Hans
Sotin's truly God-like Sarastro. The role has, in my
estimation never been better sung. Or acted. Tall, very
distinguished, handsome and noble in bearing, the youthful
bloom in Sotin's tone is of a refulgent, sappy beauty you
rarely hear in this role. I was totally unprepared for
this. The line, legato and phrasing are of the first rank:
only Ulrik Cold in the Bergman film can vie for a majestic
Sarastro of the highest order.
Nicolai Gedda's Tamino. Perfect diction, full-bodied tone,
welcome from the nasal tenorinos you usually hear, and
exquisite phrasing throughout. He looks a bit old for the
role with a terrible wig, but he acts and portrays the
young prince with a surprising degree of involvement.
Here we have the young Edith Mathis, a beautiful Pamina,
both in presence and voice. Creamy, appealing tone, a
superb actress, expressive, winning and very touching. The
aria is ideal.
The two love birds, William Workman and Carol Malone, are
wonderful. Workman has an open, friendly face and fresh
tone, and is an endearing Papageno. He and Malone are funny
and sweet together, their mating duet marvelously charming.
Cristina Deutekom - a rare opportunity to see her preserved
on a filmed document. At the time, an unparalleled Queen.
Big, glinty tone, dramatic, and thrusting. The high Fs
spark off like hammers on anvil: this is one Queen you
NEVER will think sounds younger than the daughter.
Disappointingly, she does not act very effectively for the
camera; much of the time she just stares right into it. Had
this been the way she was directed? In the first aria, the
camera is simply fixed right on her. She doesn't move - at
all. The voice is far more expressive than her face. She
comes off much better in the second aria, and boy, does she
wallop the high Fs (it is a pity that somuch of her
dialogue was cut). It is much the same as on the Solti
recording. The gargled, famously disconnected notes in the
triplets are much the same. Nevertheless, this kind of a
voice in this role surmounts all reservations.
Dietrich-Fischer Dieskau is luxury casting as the Speaker.
He looks slightly bemused, but the gravitas works.
Franz Grundheber is a merry Monostatos, reveling in his
So, then, another excellent Zauberflöte on DVD. Best of
all, a standout of a historic document. None of these
singers were often captured in a visual format, and this
one does them all proud.