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Mozart: Die Zauberflote (Opus Arte: OABD7099D) [Blu-ray]   [Region Free]
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From the Queen of the Night's vocal pyrotechnics to Papageno's chirpy birdsongs, The Magic Flute is one of Mozart's most charming and engaging operas. However, its fairytale surface conceals the mysteries of an initiation ritual and a multi-layered plot, packed with allegories to fire up the imagination.
This celebrated production by artist William Kentridge joyfully bursts onto the stage of Teatro alla Scala in Milan, featuring the dazzling Russian coloratura Albina Shagimuratova as the Queen of the Night, and Italian bass Alex Esposito as Papageno, one of the most sought-after artists of his generation.
"...this is a fascinating take on the work that Flute aficionados will appreciate for plenty of reasons." (International Record Review)
"Don't miss this visually enchanting and thought-provoking treat." (Gramophone)
"More moving and enchanting than any other 'Magic Flute'." (BBC Music Magazine)
CastSaimir Pirgu (Tamino)Genia Kühmeier (Pamina)Alex Esposito (Papageno)Ailish Tynan (Papagena)Günther Groissböck (Sarasto)Albina Shagimuratova (Queen of the Night)
Orchestra & Chorus of La Scala; Roland BöerStage Director: William Kentridge
Catalogue Number: OABD7099DDate of Performance: 2011Running Time: 150 minutesSound: 2.0LPCM + 5.1(5.0) DTSAspect Ratio: 1080i High Definition / 16:9Subtitles: EN, FR, DE, IT, ESLabel: Opus Arte
This is a fascinating take on the work that Flute aficionados will appreciate for plenty of reasons. --IRR, Mar'12
More moving and enchanting than any other Magic Flute. Performance ***** Picture & Sound **** Extras **** BBC MUSIC DVD CHOICE --BBC Music Magazine,Apr'12
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The period setting chosen appears to be late 19th century, the beginning of the age of technological advancement, the characters dressed to looking like figures from a Jules Verne or a H.G Wells novel. At the centre of these scientific advances in this production is the camera, a box that in itself represents the use of light - the ingenuity of man - to forge something out of the darkness, much as Mozart uses the music of the magic flute for the same purpose. Within the box of the stage, Kentridge uses shadows and light in a variety of ways that fits in well with this theme, as well as often being visually very striking. Thus, in the opening of Act 1, Tamino battles with a snake that is a projection created by the three ladies of the Queen of the Night, who form it out of the shadowplay of their arms. So right from the outset, Tamino literally defeats a shadow of the forces of darkness, working effectively and in keeping with a meaningful overall concept. Elsewhere, through black-and-white reversal charcoal designs, animation and even some silent movie footage Kentridge finds a variety of means to illustrate the journey and trials of the protagonists, their acquisition of wisdom and knowledge, as well as reflect the symbolism, numerology and the Masonic imagery that is associated with the themes of the opera.
The orchestration here sounds somewhat lifeless, and no-one on the stage - with the exception of Alex Exposito's Papageno, looks like they are having much fun with what should be a delightfully invigorating work. I'm presuming that the arrangement used here by Ronald Böer is period - or more likely semi-period for La Scala - but it feels like there is a distinct lack of verve in the playing and the performances. In a good interview in the extra features, Böer recognises that Die Zauberflöte contains all the different facets of Mozart's work, but the complex personality of Mozart himself is in there too, reflected in each of the characters, and that doesn't always come across here. Tamino can be a difficult role to breathe any life into, but you don't necessarily need to - the character's (and Mozart's) purity, youthful idealism and single-minded determination (yet one that is open to new ideas and a sense of betterment) is all there in the music and Saimir Pirgu sings it beautifully. So too does Genia Kühmeier's Pamina represent the other side of that nature with a similar clear purity of voice - her 'Ach, ich fühl's' is one of the loveliest I've heard. Alex Exposito is the only figure who demonstrates any kind of life and personality, and he sings Papageno well with clear diction. Where Die Zauberflöte really needs character however, a sense of grandness and imperiousness to give depth and gravity to the work, is in the opposing forces of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night, and unfortunately, neither Albina Shagimuratova nor Günther Groissböck are entirely up to the task.
All in all however, if it's a little dryly performed and lacking a little bit of spark, this is nonetheless a strong performance of Die Zauberflöte that manages to take a fresh approach to the score and the themes of the work. It's certainly worthwhile for William Kentridge's unique approach to production design that makes this never anything less than a rich and imaginative spectacle. The Blu-ray is of the usual high video and audio standards, with extra features consisting of a Cast Gallery and a very interesting twelve-minute Interview with the director and conductor. Region-free, BD50, 1080i, PCM Stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1, German language with English, French, German, Spanish and Italian subtitles.
Musically Die Zauberflöte hardly gets much better than this - everyone more than pulling their weight in every aspect. On good sound equipment you are transported to Milan which you reluctantly leave with the off button in the end. You will soon find yourself putting the Blu Ray back in again for you to be drawn into both stage and delightful music!
I found it a bit disconcerting that when they were singing of brotherhood of man, they showed two hunters shooting and killing a rhinoceros, hardly a loving thing to do!
This is one of those versions where they have tried everything else, so why not something completely different!
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