on March 8, 2003
I've heard just about every recording of Zauberflote from Toscanini and Beecham in 1937 (both of whom, for some bizarre reason, use the heavy dramatic tenor Helge Roswaenge as Tamino) to the present, and have had different favorites at different times, most notably the first Solti version with Deutekom, Burrows, Prey and Talvela and the Armin Jordan version with Jo, Orgonasova, Winbergh and Hagegard, but all have had faults either in pacing, the casting of certain key roles (the dreadful Pilar Lorengar as Pamina with Solti), etc. In recent years I've acquired a video version from German TV circa 1974 with a wonderful cast, Edith Mathis, Cristina Deutekom, Nicolai Gedda, William Workman and Hans Sotin, conducted by Horst Stein. Yet none of these performances quite prepared me for what I heard on this Gardiner recording: perfect tempi, superb orchestral texture, a forward momentum that helps keep the second act moving, and a cast of light-voiced but superb singers who follow all of Mozart's written instructions and, by doing so, bring their roles--and the opera--to life in a way I have never heard before. From first note to last, this "Flute" is conducted like a long, detailed, multi-movement symphony in which all the disparate elements congeal with perfect harmony. Even the Three Ladies, who usually bore me to death, sing with a rhythmic liveliness and perfect vocal blend that absolutely astonished me. This is all the more surprising to me since I usually don't like Gardiner's Mozart: I often find it rushed but not detailed, with singers sometimes inadequate for their roles. Here, however, he scores a perfect 10. My only quibble, and it is a small one, is that bass Harry Peeters has a pronounced vibrato in places, especially in the final scene where he sounds as if he is running out of voice; but that is a small price to pay for a performance that totally avoids the "romantic" crust that big-voiced singers and power conductors have brought to Zauberflote over the years. This recording was as great a revelation to me as the Colin Davis "Idomeneo," which I also highly recommend.
on May 15, 2002
I usually prefer Abbados reading of Mozart instead of Gardiner but here is one Abbado hast done yet and I dont think that matter because even if Gardiner not ALWAYS pick up the strongest cast for his Archiv, Mozart operas are these singers very good indeed (Oelze and Schade is very good on this one and they ARE good singers) and Gardiner has a quick, but not rushed tempi/moving forward flow in Mozarts Die ZauberflÃ¶te I admire and find very pleased with.
Sound is excellent on this disc (this is a live recording but without annoying coughing :-) and so is this music -excellent, superb. One of the absolutly best versions -so far.
The only dull thing in this opera is all that talking between arias, songs choirs, music but it is not Gardiners fault (it IS much talk in this opera). If you cant stand that go for a "highlight" version but this is disc is so good so you should by this set anyway.
By it and admire this fun, sometimes whimsy, sometimes very serious opera about becoming a good person. It is a very humanistic opera ( and has a happy ending too :-).
Period instruments sound lively and great here and are well played by English Baroque Soloists orchestra and the Monteverdi choir supports solists at a high level.
I rank this as Gardiners best Mozart disc and the best MODERN version of "Die ZauberflÃ¶te" so buy it and enjoy.
on January 12, 2004
Gardiner is great. But I think Ostman (Decca) is even better. One drawback about Gardiner is that all his recordings are super expensive. Ostman would be a better bet. Now Decca has released all 4 Mozart operas (Zauberflote & the 3 Da Ponte operas) in a budget box set, I would get the budget box set from Decca, and then supplement it with one Gardiner, which isno longer competitive because the quality is the same but the price is more than double!!!!! Ridiculous!!
on August 26, 1999
This set is worth hearing just for the part of Pamina, sung by Christiane Oelze. A golden-tonsiled soprano, whose tone is as clear as a bell, with a subtle vibrato. All around a great performance, and great sound.