Top critical review
Not the one to go if you are to own only one magic flote DVD
on January 29, 2004
This DVD may be enjoyed by those who have seen the magic flute more than 10 times and are very familiar with so-to-say typical expression, style, etc. Music/singers are excellent, and there are a lot of modern innovation that could be praised (though to me many of them are negative). But to those who have listened CD, possibly have seen video or DVD once or twice, and buying this DVD for the first time, it will be a very disappointing purchase. It is just very different from what you would expect. And if you were to own just one DVD or VHS of the magic flute in your collection, this cannot be the one to go.
First, you will be shocked to find that the interesting conversation between Papageno and Tamino are cut out. Later also dialogue between Papageno and Monostatos is cut. The latter one really cut off one interesting scene from the play. I didn't notice all the other changes one by one, but we got an impression that it is largely cut and altered, and it is somehow losing essential elements of this opera.
The costumes are also shocking.
Tamino is dressed like a factory worker in early 20c rather than a prince in 17-18c. Papageno is like that, with a knit vest with ducks printed: while he sings "I will be plucked..." he does not have any feathers. He just wears a hat with a bird's head and wings sticking out, this is the only thing he wears as a "bird man".
Sarastro is dressed like a pirate rather than a mystic leader of secret organization.
Papagena is dressed like a modern-day prostitute with a regular fur coat on sexy dress with sun-glasses, and does not look like 80yr old at all from the beginning. She just looks like a crazy girl. She just takes her coat off when she becomes an 18yr old girl.
Monostatos: I think his appearance is related to the fact that they cut the dialogue: his face is painted all white and whiter than Papageno. So the scene of Papageno and Monostatos getting scared of each other, as Monostatos being black, Papageno being like a bird, is completely altered and reduced to a nonsensical scene. It might be due to political incorrectness, but cutting only this does not make sense since whole opera is politically incorrect anyway.
Three boys:they are really boys and they sing very well. Actually I bought this DVD because the other one (by a scandinavian group) used women for the boys. They dress like school boys. Not angelic at all.
The queen of night and three women are OK. They reminded me of Kabuki. Somehow all of them are always very tense.
As a summary for the costumes, I would say it is very down to earth. This opera is supposed to be a fairly tale, but the costumes contribute to anything but that.
I would like to comment on some positive things about this product besides the quality of music. Papageno's physical action is remarkable and funny. (I will not explain it here so that you could be surprised) Also animals (especially the bird and the dragon in the beginning) are cute and nice. And the model of the sun was good; they even got black spots on it.
Overall, if this was a CD of a collection of arias from the magic flute, it will be truthful and excellent quality. But if you have a DVD version called the magic flute, the visual effect and dialogues are key things. This DVD was like a combination of the arias from the magic flute, dialogues from somewhere else, and visual is from a modern hollywood blockbuster comedy movie.
I could say it is an elaborated and well-made production, and it is well-filmed, too. It is just different.