Elegant performance with dialogue shortened so that the essence of the story is presented. For those who like that, this is the recording to have. All musicians perform well; those who appreciate original instruments will greatly appreciate this recording.
This recording is really worthy... the voices of Christane Oelze (pamina) and Cyndia Sieden (Königin der Nacth) are superb, also the male soloists (and the rest) are excellent as well as the choir and the musicians.
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.