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on September 2, 2017
I thought this was a thoroughly well-done version of this opera. Queen of the Night aria is outstanding.
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on March 27, 2014
A very dramatic and well-acted opera production! I was amazed at how beautiful the make-up jobs were in addition to the mature and multi-dimensional interpretation of this wonderful German opera by Mozart!
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on July 24, 2016
It marvellous opera singers and a great story theatrical hall.
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on June 14, 2015
Great production! Excellent Queen of the Night by Diana Damrau and Simon Keenlyside is a wondeful Papageno!
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on May 14, 2016
Great production. Good quality Blueray.
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on June 11, 2004
In this DVD's special feature, renowned Mozart interpreter Sir Colin Davis states (or quotes another musician) that, "Mozart is simply God." He compares this composer's Singspiel in two acts to Shakespeare's valedictory work, "The Tempest," and relates that one of Mozart's characters actually quotes Prospero. This occurs when Sarastro is speaking of the Queen of the Night: "This thing of darkness I / Acknowledge mine" (5.1.275-76). How very appropriate since Mozart's librettist Schikaneder was among other things a Shakespearean actor. Mozart himself was said to be working on sketches for an operatic version of "The Tempest" when he died.
This production was filmed at the Royal Opera House, Convent Garden in January, 2003 and one of the most pleasing aspects of it is that the producer has achieved unity of music, text, and staging. As the conductor says, "you can be an old man like me or a little girl of seven..." and the 'Flute' will still enfold you in its trifold magic.
The designer, John Macfarlane chose an unusually dark Baroque setting--"When will this endless night be over?"--but there are flashes of brilliance, some of them paying homage to Ingmar Bergman's version of this opera, e.g. the scene in the Speaker of the Temple's study, the trials by water and fire, Pamina's attempted suicide, and Sarastro's final exit with the flute (although this Sarastro doesn't toss it gleefully into the air).
One of the most extraordinary aspects of this production is its Papageno. Simon Keenlyside is a nervy, cynical birdcatcher. He is not simple, so much as burned-out. This interpretation makes his attempted suicide seem very much in character, but I had trouble believing that he would live happily ever after with Ailish Tynan's brassy Papagena.
The Austrian bass Franz-Josef Selig is a portly, paternal Sarastro. The low Fs of "O Isis und Osiris" are no challenge to his dark voice, but he is less successful with the second great bass aria, "In diesen heilgen Hallen" which sounds a bit shouted and effortful. His speaking voice resonates with deep, mellow calm, and I'd almost rather hear him talk than sing.
The Queen of the Night, Diana Damrau will cause the hair on the back of your neck to rise up with her unearthly arias. She was voted "Opernwelt's" Young Singer of the Year in 1999 and I hope to hear more of her. She commanded the stage and the Night, as well as every difficult passage that Mozart wrote for her.
Will Hartmann as Tamino is a little pinched at top, but suitably noble. He is an excellent, believable prince. Dorothea Röschmann is his sturdily-sung Pamina. Usually her suicide attempt is more believable than Papageno's, but not in this production. She is more of a Ceres than a frightened, abducted Persephone.
Adrian Thomson's Monostatos and his cohorts wore period fright-perukes and lots of lipstick. Perfect! Their costumes and cavorting reminded me of the 'minuet scene' in "Fearless Vampire Killers."
Thomas Allen is a special treat as the Speaker of the Temple, although the gorgeous orrery almost steals the scene in his study.
Sir Colin's comment on the meaning of "Die Zauberflöte," "The struggle to attain perfection is where all value lies" also applies to productions of this opera. That is why I think you should experience both this conductor's version, as well as Ingmar Bergman's 1975 film.
I recently attended the most enchanting of 'Flutes' with sets designed by Maurice Sendak, and nothing will ever supercede Ingmar Bergman's production in my heart, but Sir Colin's 'Flute' is a close third.
4 people found this helpful
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on January 16, 2004
This production of Mozart's masterpiece is a very refreshing and innovative concept. Veteran British conductor Sir Colin Davis leads his orchestra in a live performance at London's celebrated Covent Garden. In my personal opinion, this interpretation of The Magic Flute ranks alongside the high-quality Bergman opera film which was made in Stockholm and sung in Danish the 70's. This production seems to be either 80's or 90's. The sets and costumes were designed to look 18th century (the time of Mozart) and many of the Enlightenment/Freemason iconography is conveniently used. Sarastro (Selig)looks like a majestic Benjamin Franklin, the Temple looks like a Masonic Temple, there are models of the solar system and hot-air balloons, not to mention the costumes and wigs appear authentic to the period this opera was first composed. Anyhow, it's obvious there are limits to the use of creativity in this production (probably due to a low budget)- the Serpent that persues Tamino as the opera opens is nothing more than a large puppet visably operated by people. This would be like the discovery of the Wizard Of Oz' fake illusion-machine at the end of The Wizard of Oz. Disappointing also is the finale in which the Queen of the Night is not killed or visably destroyed (in other versions she melts with the sun's rays or simply drops dead) but in this production she simply exits stage left.
There is very little lighting and much of the opera is pitched against Rembrandt-like darkness. Light is cast only on the focus of certain scenes- the pillars of the Temple, the bed Pamina is sleeping in, etc. A fog machine is used to make the Three Ladies mysteriously appear. The Queen of the Night is welcomed with a prop of a mooon and stars. Even like this, the opera is enjoyable. It is avant-garde and theatrical. The singers are in good shape, even the nearly retired bass Richard Van Allan. Dorothea Roschmann performs a beautifully mature Pamina, passive but strong when necessary (remember she says to Tamino during the Trial of Fire and Water that SHE will lead the way while he plays his magic flute) and she is glorified along with him at the end of the ordeal. Diana Damrau sings a terric Queen of the Night. Her acting combines with her singing so blissfully that she is one of the rare interpreters of the role that don't look bad playing the Queen. Other than Damrau, Edda Moser does a superior job. Damrau's coloratura is dead-on in the high F's, and her villainous scheming and vindictive persona is almost cartoonish what with her costume and make up. Tamino (tenor Hartmann) does a good job with what he has- as far as lyric German singing and the little acting he has to do as the heroic and romantic lead. This DVD comes with commentary by Sir Colin Davis as he talks about The Magic Flute and its significance in music as well as a behind-the-scenes feature on the making of this production. This opera is visually striking. Get it if you are a fan of The Magic Flute and if you want to look at the little visual displays that make this a delightful rendition. Examples I can give are the funny moments that include Papageno-especially his final scene in which he meets Papagena, who comes to him looking like a rather fat Madonna or Cindy Lauper on a rotating bed. Loads of fun.
One person found this helpful
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on September 22, 2003
Many of us hold up as the standard filmed version of 'The Magic Flute' the one that Ingmar Bergman did at Drottningholm perhaps twenty years ago. Obviously the film opened up the stage and made the opera more cinematic than a staged version could be.
This DVD is of a production taped digitally in January 2003 at Covent Garden, a new production staged by David McVicar, designed by John Macfarlane and conducted by that eminent Mozartian, Sir Colin Davis. And, of course, it is simply of a stage production; there is no breaking down the walls of the stage. However, the direction for video is both masterful and unobtrusive. And then there's the production itself.
The leading singers are all quite wonderful. The only slightly less than top-drawer singer, in my opinion, is Franz-Josef Selig as Sarastro; he has the cavernous bass required for the part but there is an incipient wobble that distracts. In the 'wonderful' category are some singers previously unknown to me. Tamino is sung by a young German tenor, Will Hartmann, whose voice reminds me of that star German tenor of yesteryear, Rudolf Schock; it is not innately beautiful but it is solid, masculine and has a ringing top. His acting is basic but more than adequate; Tamino is not a role that calls for great acting. The Queen of the Night, Diana Damrau, is not one of those coloratura canaries so often assigned to the role; she is a dramatic coloratura and not only does she sing the role well, her acting is believable. Her makeup and costume make her look, appropriately, like a cross between Morticia Addams and Cruella de Vil. A scary lady. Pamina is sung, and acted believably, by German soprano Dorothea Röschmann. Her 'Ach, ich fuhl's' is moving and utterly gorgeous. She has floated high notes that cause gooseflesh.
The lesser roles are also taken well. Papagena is humorous, physical and well-sung by Ailish Tynan. Monastatos is properly repellantly lecherous and sung with impeccable diction by Adrian Thompson. It was particularly heart-warming to see well-loved veteran basso, Richard Van Allen, as the First Priest; the voice is still there and his acting, as always, is spot on. Thomas Allen's Speaker is a bit less effective but still quite good. The three Ladies, the three Boys and the two Armed Men are all effective sung and acted.
My highest praise, though, goes to Simon Keenlyside who is quite simply the best Papageno I've ever seen. His is an extremely athletic performance; he takes some tumbles and makes some leaps that have you gasping in surprise. At one point he slides across the stage--trying to catch a bird at the end of his entrance aria--as well as any short-stop you've ever seen. His comic acting--aided by lots of close-ups--has you laughing out loud, and yet he portrays the longing for 'eine Weibchen' in a way that puts a lump in your throat. His sturdy baritone is one of the best around these days. A real triumph for him. The audience gave him, deservedly, the loudest and longest applause during the curtain calls.
Overall, this is the best staged production of 'Zauberflöte' I've ever seen. I was riveted and didn't even take a break between the two acts I was so drawn into it. Extras on the DVD inlude brief interviews with McVicar and Macfarlane, and a long interview--quite informative and utterly charming--with Sir Colin. There is also a spoken synopsis that is quite well done, and I'd suggest you view it before you view the opera if you're not very familiar with the plot.
I give this DVD my very highest recommendation.
Scott Morrison
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on October 22, 2003
I chose this version for one reason. It was the only Zauberflote DVD I saw with digitally recorded Dolby 5.1 Surround audio. The audio is all I hoped for. Even if you can't sit and watch the DVD, play it just for the audio!
Simon Keenlyside as Papageno made this an excellent choice. His voice is awesome. Being able to see his facial expressions adds to his performance. Something you'd probably miss from most opera house seats. Diana Damrau handles her Queen of Night solos flawlessly. Her edgy costume and makeup are memorable. (She is pictured on the DVD cover.) Ailish Tynan as Papagena has some of the best comic moments with Simon Keenlyside.
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on December 23, 2003
There is no disagreement with any of the reviewers here - this performance blew me away and had me completely enthralled. I bought this recording for simon keenlyside and colin davis, but all the main characters are fantastic.
To start with the queen of the night, diana damrau has to be heard and SEEN to be believed..she sings and acts her heart out - this is the most exciting portrayal of the queen I have ever witnessed. Will Hartmann and Dorothea Roschmann are excellent as tamino and pamina, and simon keenlyside is as brilliant and touching as his review in opera news claims.
The sets and costumes are marvelously tasteful, the conducting is magnificent, and the performances have you laughing one moment, excited the next, and in delicate ecstacy after that. I cannot count the number of times this DVD had me jumping off my couch and yelling bravo! bravAA! to my TV screen. How often does something this perfect come by? GET IT NOW!!!!
2 people found this helpful
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