Magic is the word. We are transported back to the 18th century in the fully restored Drottningholm Court Theatre where the only concession to modern times, when it was restored, is electric lighting. Orchestra members and singers are all in period costume, and wigs. The musical instruments are authentic replicas and I have a feeling that some of them are original, the real thing. The counterpoint between flutes and bassoons, with elegant strings and softer-than-modern timpani, in a relatively small orchestra is sublime, particularly in The March of the Priests.
The singing is good throughout. The voice and acting of Laszlo Polgar, the Hungarian bass playing Sarastro, is more than good -- it is sensitive and beautiful. OK, he is not an Alexander Kipnis or a Wilhelm Hesch, but his is the most smoothly rounded bass voice among the many I have heard in this role. And he's a pleasantly handsome fellow, too.
At the opening of Act II, with the aria "Isis and Osiris", four of the items found in Masonic lodges at the time are authentically portrayed. This setting, the Masonic items, and the acting here are identical to those in the Australian Opera's 1986 production conducted by Richard Bonynge. Not surprising, because they were by the same director and set designer.
There is only one disappointment: the three boys are not played by boys. I don't know whether or not this is "authentic" because, in the first performance in 1791, they were played by two boys and the daughter of Schikaneder. In modern productions available on DVD, the best portrayal of the three boys can be seen in Bergman's brilliant 1975 version and in the 1983 production by Bayerische Staatsoper.
Overall, this perfomance, in this setting, is a total delight.