Magazine article Opera Canada

Die Zauberflote

Magazine article Opera Canada

Die Zauberflote

Article excerpt

MOZART

Euroarts: BPI-1130011

Recorded live at the Baden-Baden Easter Festival from a single performance on Apr. 1, 2013, this Robert Carsen production of Mozart's charming and multilayered penultimate opera features a strong cast, along with the Rundfimkchor Berlin and the Berlin Philharmonic under the direction of Simon Rattle. The generous extras include an introduction by Rattle, comments by Carsen on the staging and a "Behind the Scenes" feature. I was surprised to learn that this marked the -first live performances of Die Zauberflote by the Berlin orchestra, although Herbert von Karajan hehned a major studio release in 1980 and Thomas Beecham led a memorable cast in his landmark recording from the the 1930s. "I've spent my life avoiding conducting the 59-yer-ol,"d Rattle says. "The piece is a conductor's graveyard and I know many people who find it very, very difficult. It's very hard to be simple, and you absolutely must be simple in this piece."

The "graveyard- reference is an apt one for this production. Rattle and Carsen stress the opera's obsession with death, noting more than 60 references to the word or its derivatives in the libretto, plus multiple suicide and murder attempts. The forest setting, with lihn projections as a backdrop, has Monos-taros (a suitably evil James Elliott) and his henchmen dressed as shovel-brandishing undertakers, and various characters emerge from or descend into graves in the stage floor Tamino climbs out as he escapes from the serpent (which turns out to be a very unthreatening long snake) and Tamino and Papageno are led down to Sanstro's subterranean abode for their trials. The Three Ladies (Amick Massis, Magdalena Kozena and Nathalie Stutzmann, all in fine form) appear as widows in black mourning attire, with veils and sunglasses.

The set, by Toronto-based designer Michael Levine, features an extended stage in the form of a walkway that surrounds all four sides of the orchestra pit, used in the overture to have the cast assemble one by one from the back of the hall and gather around the perimeter to listen to the orchestra and gaze down like rapt audience members themselves. …

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