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Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible spectacle and a good performance, 4 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Mozart: Die Zauberflote [Bregenz 2013 Pountney] [Alfred Reiter, Norman Reinhardt, Ana Durlovski] [C Major: 713804] [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
If it were anywhere else and any other work, you might think that the production here was just a little bit over the top, but this is the floating lake stage in Bregenz and it's Mozart's The Magic Flute, so anything goes really. Set right in the waters of Lake Constance, the opera is performed on the domed back of a giant turtle that is surrounded by three huge dragons, but the stage itself is only half the spectacle. The overture, for example, shows the capture of Pamina, the Queen of the Night looking on horrified as Sarastro, Monostatos and his slaves transport her away on a boat that takes a circuit of the stage. The stage then erupts into life in the battle that ensues, fireworks flying, a serpent winding down the stage to inflate to enormous proportions as the dragon that attacks Prince Tamino. Elsewhere the domed stage revolves, one half sprouting giant inflatable blades of grass or spikes that create a forest and change colour according to the scene, the other half used mainly to create a podium or dais for the grandstanding of The Queen of the Night and for Sarastro.

Another significant feature of the David Pountney's production is the use of larger-than-life puppets for the three ladies (each operated by three puppeteers, reflecting the significance of this number in the work) and for the three boys, while the actual roles are sung off-stage (and all by female singers moreover). There are probably logistical reasons for this, although the stage is accommodating enough for all sorts of activity and numbers of extras and acrobats. If it allows the singers to concentrate on the singing however, well then that's also a benefit, but primarily such decisions appear to be taken for the sake of magic, spectacle and sheer scale. The dancing animals, for example, charmed by Tamino's magic flute, are recreated here through giant glowing eyes in a forest and it works wonderfully. Everything comes together exceptionally well in this way, the principal singers interacting with all the marvellous creations, the whole thing meticulously timed and choreographed.

Just because there is huge importance placed on spectacle and entertainment at Bregenz doesn't mean however that the musical performance or the singing is in any way neglected or relegated to secondary importance. Conducted by Patrick Summers, the small ensemble of the Vienna Symphonic orchestra give a lovely, sensitive reading that captures the translucent beauty of the score and the brightness of its melodies with a lively performance. There are quite a few trims applied in this production and not just to the spoken dialogues (no March of the Priests at the start of Act II, Sarastro's 'In diesen heil'gen Hallen' reduced to second verse only, Sarastro, Pamina and Tamino's trio skipped), seemingly with the intention of allowing the work to be played straight through without an interval. This is perhaps for practical reasons, but there's nothing that seems to compromise the integrity of the work.

There are times also when you think that a high level of fitness, intrepidness, acrobatic agility and a head for heights are more important considerations than singing ability when it comes to casting for Bregenz. For this production, where several performers reportedly ended up in the lake on one or two occasions, you might even add swimming as an important requirement this time, but the singing is marvellous too. Pamina and Tamino in this production are both warmly engaging, demonstrating the lightness and clarity of tone required for these roles. The same is true of Daniel Schmutzhard's Papageno and Dénise Beck's Papagena. The more challenging tessitura of Königen der Nacht and Sarastro are both very capably handled by Ana Durlovski and Alfred Reiter. Martin Koch as Monostatos (wearing a very nearly obscene codpiece), is also good.

As productions of Die Zauberflöte go however, the Bregenz production then not only looks and sounds great, it's played perfectly in the spirit of the work. It's rare that you get all those elements coming together in a way that captures the pure vitality, the meaning and the entertainment of the work as well as this, although unquestionably the emphasis here leans more on the entertainment side of the work than the esoteric. The ability to scale the work up for the Bregenz stage works in its favour in this regard, but that also undoubtedly brings other considerable challenges. It's quite an achievement by Summers and Pountney then that this comes across quite as brilliantly as it does.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Jan 2014 16:56:23 GMT
H. A. Weedon says:
Any helpfulness this review has is destroyed by its unnecessary verbosity.
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