Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on Blu-ray
We are all familiar with Mozart’s Magic Flute to the libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. What is far less well known, however, is the fact that Schikaneder wrote a sequel to The Magic Flute and entrusted the acclaimed composer and “Palatinate-Bavarian Kapellmeister” Peter von Winter with the task of setting it to music. Following the premiere in 1798 at the Freihaustheater in Vienna, the same venue where Mozart’s Magic Flute had begun its triumphal progress, the second opera enjoyed several years of lasting success until it fell foul of the French censor and was banished to the archives on the grounds that some of the characters in the
performances bore too great a resemblance to Napoleon Bonaparte, who had just taken power. In the year that marks the 200th anniversary of Emanuel Schikaneder’s death, the Salzburg Festival presents this operatic rarity at the city’s Residenzhof in the form of a glittering fairy-tale opera in which magic and ghostly events play a decisive role. All of the characters from The Magic Flute are present plus numerous others, all in imaginatively colourful costumes, all involved in their seriously funny games, as they take the wrong paths through the labyrinth of the soul, fail or succeed in numerous tests, swear undying love and loyalty in the face of power, greed and revenge. They dance and revel, disappear into oblivion or float through the air on a crescent moon, and amid constantly changing scenery and a frenzy of phantasy and colours present a piece of lavish Baroque theatre tailored to today’s tastes. Ivor Bolton conducts his Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra energetically, smoothly and elegantly, bringing out the best in Winter’s charming music with its cleverly interwoven echoes of Mozart. The soloists are from the top drawer: Michael Schade triumphs as Tamino, while Thomas Tatzl and Anton Scharinger are a brilliant young and old Papageno. Coloratura soprano Julia Novikova is in full command of her role as the Queen of the Night. The excellent Salzburg Bach Choir delivers the double chorus parts with immense force and a pleasantly supple sound, depending on what the scene demands. The result is an evening of theatrical magic involving a chemistry made of music, a love of playing and scenic effects in the Baroque atmosphere of the Residenzhof, culminating in a rapturous response from the audience.
Peter von Winter
Part II of Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)
Sarastro – Christof Fischesser
Königin der Nacht – Julia Novikova
Pamina – Malin Hartelius
Tamino – Michael Schade
Papageno – Thomas Tatzl
Papagena – Regula Mühlemann
Alter Papageno – Anton Scharinger
Alte Papagena – Ute Gfrerer
Erste Dame (Venus) – Nina Bernsteiner
Zweite Dame (Amor) – Christina Daletska
Dritte Dame (Page) – Monika Bohinec
Monostatos – Klaus Kuttler
Tipheus – Clemens Unterreiner
Salzburg Festival Children’s Chorus
Salzburg Bach Choir
Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra
Ivor Bolton, conductor
Alexandra Liedtke, stage director
Raimund Orfeo Voigt, stage designer
Susanne Bisovsky and Elisabeth Binder-Neururer, costume designers
Ismael Ivo, choreographer
Recorded live from the Residenzhof, Salzburg Festival, Summer 2012
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Korean
Running time: 158 mins
No. of DVDs: 2
R E V I E W:
VON WINTER Das Labyrinth (abridged) • Ivor Bolton, cond; Christof Fischesser (Sarastro); Julia Novikova (Queen of the Night); Malin Hartelius (Pamina); Michael Schade (Tamino); Thomas Tatzl (Papageno); Regula Mühlemann (Papagena); Anton Scharinger (Papageno’s father); Ute Gferer (Papageno’s mother); Nina Bernsteiner (First Lady, Venus); Christina Daletska (Amor, Second Lady); Monika Bohinec (Third Lady, Page); Klaus Kuttler (Monastatos); Clemens Unterreiner (Tipheus); Philippe Sly (First Moor); Shantia Ullmann (High Priestess); Salzburg Bach Ch; Salzburg Festival Children’s Ch; Mozarteum O Salzburg • ARTHAUS 101677 (2 DVDs: 158: 00) Live: Salzburg Summer 2012
For those of you who don’t recognize the composer or title of this opera, you’re not alone; but a brief perusal of the cast of characters will probably give you a clue. Yes, folks, this is the elusive—and little-known—sequel to Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte which, like its predecessor, had a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. And look! It turns out that, all these years, Peter Schickele was right…there really is a “Papa and Mama Geno,” not to mention the fact that suddenly the three ladies also have names (Venus, Amor, and Page), and suddenly Sarastro has a High Priestess to keep him company! (And I’ll bet you thought that his Religion of Isis was a guys’ only club!)
All kidding aside, this is a very interesting opera and a good performance as well. Reading the notes, it turns out that Schikaneder, never one to let a “hit” show go without a sequel, was rather upset about the death of Mozart and so went hunting for someone to write the sequel. He lit upon Peter von Winter (1754-1825), a fine composer whose 1796 opera Das unterbrochene Opferfest had made him famous in several European cities. Recently appointed Hofkapellmeister at the Kurpfalz-Bavarian court, where he had been in residence since 1776, von Winter took up what history must judge as a serious and daunting task: to follow up one of the most celebrated musical geniuses of all time. In retrospect, it would almost be as if he were asked to write a sequel to Beethoven’s Fidelio, the kind of thing that might only have been accomplished in that time by someone of the caliber of Spontini or Berlioz. Happily, von Winter remained confident of his own powers, so that although he did make some musical references to Mozart’s score he was able to craft an entirely different—and quite excellent—score of his own.
There are many things to admire in von Winter’s score, in fact: the more intricate writing for the three ladies, extended scenes for the Queen of the Night that sometimes resemble the florid passages of “O zittre nicht” and “Der hölle Rache” yet do not repeat familiar patterns, an extremely long act I finale (50 minutes) that builds on the constructions Mozart created in the first acts of Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni, and surprisingly difficult florid music for Pamina of a type that Mozart never wrote for most of his soubrette roles (Susanna, Zerlina, Pamina) but, rather, looks forward to the kind of music for this voice type that became popular and common during the “bel canto” era. Only in Papageno’s Second Act aria, “Nun adieu, ich reis’ ihr Schätzen,” does von Winter sound like a Mozart clone, probably because Schikaneder’s short singing range forced him to restrict his musical imagination (as it had for Mozart).
As for the plot, Das Labyrinth is much more complex in certain details, particularly where Papageno is concerned. In one scene, where Papageno, his parents, and younger siblings (of which there seem to be close to a dozen!), and Papagena trap Monastatos and threaten to kill him, the latter takes Papageno aside and promises him a blackamoor girl for a mistress, to which Papageno agrees. Unfortunately for Papageno, Monastatos fulfills his end of the bargain right after the former’s marriage, as he and his family are celebrating. Papagena overhears them, blows up, and runs off with Monastatos as a form of revenge. Meanwhile, Sarastro has determined that Tamino and Pamina must go through yet another trial, this time in a labyrinth, while the Queen is in league with Tipheus, King of Paphos, who agrees to help her recapture her daughter in return for her hand in marriage. The plot thickens when Sarastro’s minions (ah, I just love that word, minions!) agree en masse to go after the Queen (whose name in this sequel is, for some odd reason, changed from Astrafiammante to Luna) and gain revenge.
Papageno is sent to fly on a cloud to rescue Pamina, which he tries to do, but they take so long to sing their duet that by the time they’re finished the three ladies grab her away from him again. They put her up in a cloud so that she cannot escape; Tamino, guided by the Three Genii (remember them?), shows up and helps her walk down “through the clouds” to him. Queenie and her three female demons chase after them, the Papageno Family captures Monastatos (again), Papageno and Papagena are finally reuinited, and Sarastro suggests that the hostilities be settled once and for all by having Tipheus and Tamino have a one-on-one fight to the finish. Apparently Tamino had his spinach and Tipheus didn’t, because the former wins and all ends happily.
So far, then, we have given high praise to von Winter’s score and reviewed the plot. What, then, of the production? In brief, it’s excellent. Since this performance was given outside the Residenzhof in Salzburg and not in the theater, stage director Alexandra Liedtke had quite a challenge to make an opera that (like Die Zauberflöte) was designed for changing scenery, multiple effects, and various stage machinery (all of which fascinated Schikaneder, who used them in most of his productions) into something that simply suggested such machinery. She did a remarkable job. The opening, for instance, in which the various characters silently emerge from behind a curtain and bow to the audience before going to one side or the other, is staged almost in a commedia dell’arte style, with a small stage with curtain (it looks maybe 15 to 20 feet wide) set up for the action to take place. Later on, when Sarastro and his troupe are introduced, it looks as though the earlier scene had taken place in the late afternoon while the Sarastro scene takes place in twilight, and by the time act II rolls around it is indeed nighttime. I’m not sure if Liedtke planned it that way or just took advantage of nature, but she did splendid work as the black backdrop with white lights that replaced the proscenium stage suddenly has its lights turned on for act II, which is quite effective. By the opera’s final scene, the black background with lights splits itself into two, placed on opposite sides of the stage; in the middle, Queen Luna is finally cut off from doing further harm by a ring of magic fog from which she cannot escape (shades of Brünnhilde’s circle of magic fire!). The costumes are fanciful, a few erotic touches are given at the suggestion of Schikaneder’s text, and of course the acting style is modern, but by and large one can call this a traditional production. The “bird couple” look like what you’d expect them to be, ditto the Queen and her Dark Ladies (who, in an effort to infiltrate the Tamino-Pamina couple in act I, are transformed into Amor, Venus, and a Page). I wonder if costume designers Susanne Bisovsky and Elisabeth Binder-Neururer took a cue from Schickele’s Abduction of Figaro for their costumes for “Papa and Mama Geno,” because they’re not too far off.
As for the performers, they are generally excellent, the least good singer being Christof Fischesser as Sarastro. He has a nice timbre and his low range is as solid as a rock, but his middle and upper ranges are wobbly and unsteady. Julia Novikova as Luna has a dark, cutting voice, just right for the evil Queen. Malin Hartelius (Pamina) starts out somewhat roughly, with an acidic, squally timbre and shrill high notes, but during her ensuing duet with Tamino the voice warms up and she is fine thereafter. Michael Schade had put on a surprising amount of weight and grown a moustache, so that I didn’t recognize him when he first came out (silently) in the beginning (he looks almost like Jackie Gleason’s character, Reginald van Gleason, did back in the 1960s), but he sings extremely well. Thomas Tatzl (Papageno) and Regula Mühlemann (Papagena) are simply marvelous. Anton Scharinger (Papageno’s father) seems to have lost something since the 1990s, as his voice sounded somewhat unsteady and a bit hollow, but Ute Gferer (Mama Geno) has a fine voice. Klaus Kuttler is a good Monastatos, Clemens Unterreiner has a fine dark baritone voice as Tipheus, and one must praise the superb singing of our Three Genii, Paul Schrader, Benedikt Gurtner, and Johannes Fiedler.
Much is made on the box and in the booklet that this is an abridged performance, but as it turns out it’s not too heavily cut. No. 12 in the score (whatever it was) is missing, much of the spoken dialog is omitted, and there are probably little “paper cuts” throughout, but what is left holds together (the score was somewhat edited by conductor Bolton) and works well. I’m not sure that the whole 158 minutes couldn’t have fit on one DVD, but that’s my only complaint about packaging. Visually it’s a treat for children, which I judge from the fact that my cat Fluffy was utterly fascinated by the act I finale, staring at the screen in wonderment. (I picked her up to watch more closely, but she kept looking at the screen and then turning to look out the window for more characters…to Fluffy, the video was just a window.) I’ve had occasion to hear Bolton conduct Gluck, which he does pretty poorly, but here he does a splendid job. Thus I can not only recommend this DVD production, which I do, but also recommend Das Labyrinth to opera companies to stage. What can you lose? It’s certainly a better crowd-pleaser than many other operas I can think of, its novelty would get people in the door and the music will keep them in their seats. If you like Die Zauberflöte, you’ll definitely like Das Labyrinth.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley Read less
Works on This Recording
Das Labyrinth by Peter von Winter
Malin Hartelius (Soprano),
Christof Fischesser (Bass),
Thomas Tatzl (Bass-baritone),
Regula Mühlemann (Mezzo Soprano),
Julia Novikova (Soprano),
Michael Schade (Tenor),
Klaus Kuttler (Baritone)
Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra,
Salzburg Bach Choir,
Salzburg Festival Children's Chorus
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