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Mozart: Die Zauberflote / Levine, Talvela, Gruberova, Schreier, Berry

Release Date: 02/22/2011 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 107199  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Martti TalvelaPeter SchreierIleana CotrubasWalter Berry,   ... 
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Sarastro – Martti Talvela
Tamino – Peter Schreier
Sprecher – Walter Berry
Erster Priester – Peter Weber
Zweiter Priester – Horst Nitsche
Königin der Nacht – Edita Gruberova
Pamina – Ileana Cotrubas
Erste Dame – Edda Moser
Zweite Dame – Ann Murray
Dritte Dame – Ingrid Mayr
Papageno – Christian Boesch
Papagena – Gudrun Sieber
Monostatos – Horst Hiestermann
Erster Geharnischter – William Lewis
Zweiter Geharnischter – Kurt Rydl
Sklave – Christian Spatzek
Drei Knaben – Solisten des Tölzer Knabenchors

Vienna State Opera Chorus
Read more Philharmonic Orchestra
James Levine, conductor

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, stage director

Recorded during the Salzburger Festspiele, 1982.

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian
Running time: 189 mins
No. of DVDs: 2 (DVD 9 + DVD 5)

R E V I E W:

I’ve already made mention in these pages of my appreciation for the art of the late Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. Where many other directors/stage designers see operas merely as department store manikins to hang any concepts upon—the more inappropriate, the better, when it comes to gaining notoriety and further employment—Ponnelle achieved his often startling results simply by finding effective solutions to stage problems few people consider. How do you differentiate Monostatos from his much-abused people when Papageno uses his bells? What do the various Initiates of the Sun do while they’re awaiting their leader and the start of a meeting? These are the kinds of questions Ponnelle considered and answered in this Zauberflöte , and the results seem so natural in retrospect that it’s difficult to understand how matters could have been done in any other way.

The stage of this 1982 Salzburg Festival live production features the exterior and interior of an ancient, crumbling stone temple, more Aztec-seeming than Egyptian, over a vaguely hilly terrain. Textures are realistic, with the large, stone-arched, semicircular interior being particularly impressive. Lighting is unusually daring and effective, an example being the 15-foot- high shadows cast behind them onto the wall by the Two Armored Men. The production also has an unusual thematic consistency, with the Queen and her Three Ladies dressed in ornate Baroque gowns and acting with great theatricality, while Sarastro and his initiates are soberly Classical representatives of the coming Enlightenment. (Ponnelle designed the costumes, as well.)

If I haven’t touched upon the acting and singing yet, it’s only because much else here deserves noting for its quality. The acting is universally effective, and not surprisingly so; Ponnelle was known for working closely with casts on motivation, blocking, and ease of movement. There is one exception to all this: Christian Boesch, who as Papageno displays charm, spontaneity, and a great deal of energy. If the others cut decent figures on stage, Boesch goes beyond that. His voice, while good, isn’t deployed with quite the same level of expertise, so no memories of Walter Berry (who plays The Speaker in this performance) or Gerhard Hüsch are put into the shade.

The others in the cast are similarly fine without quite reaching the heights. Schreier sounds suitably lyrical but stiff, except in one or two short passages (notably Tamino’s momentary despair before the temple in act I) where he sings softly with a melting legato. Cotrubas evinces a lovely but wooly tone, and pushes Levine’s already fast tempo for her aria. Gruberova is better in “O zitt’re nicht, mein lieber Sohn” than in “Der Hölle Rache,” where she’s mostly accurate in her figurations but largely inexpressive, and a bit uncomfortably wide in her vibrato. As Sarastro, Talvela was within a few years of his 50th birthday in 1982. The resonance has dried out a bit on his voice and the intonation in the lower range wasn’t always secure, but he still had that gleam at the top and a marvelous legato to make so much of his pair of arias. Hiestermann has a kind of non-voice, a wobble so wide that it’s impossible to discover correct pitch. James Levine is an extremely sympathetic collaborator with his soloists, and maintains a good pulse without any undue haste.

The only obvious evidence pointing to this DVD’s analog origins was a very occasional bleeding of colors, most notably on the elaborate cravats of the Three Boys. Images were well defined, and areas of light intensity showed no ghosting or haze. The camera work was excellent, with none of the fidgetiness that’s the bane of filmed stage opera. The format ratio is 4:3, with sound offered in stereo, and subtitles in English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish. Despite the two-DVD price tag, this is definitely a Die Zauberflöte to enjoy.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal Reviewing earlier TDK release
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Works on This Recording

Die Zauberflöte, K 620 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Martti Talvela (Bass), Peter Schreier (Tenor), Ileana Cotrubas (Soprano),
Walter Berry (Bass Baritone), Christian Boesch (Baritone), Edita Gruberova (Soprano)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 8/1982 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Reference masterpiece of Jean-Pierre PONNELLE's s January 2, 2015 By R.O.  O. (NEW YORK CITY, NY) See All My Reviews "Extraordinary to present this reference DVD without mentioning the historic production of Jean-Pierre PONNELLE. Mind-boggling." Report Abuse
 Artistic Excellence April 16, 2014 By D. Carruthers (Schaumburg, IL) See All My Reviews "I was particularly interested in seeing this production of Mozart's Die Zauberflote. The set design, stage direction, orchestra and artistic performances are excellent. This DVD is a magnificent addition to my collection of operas." Report Abuse
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