This is a great wee book for anyone getting into mozarts operas. We have seen the show (puppet version), watched the u-tube cartoon, listened to the music and our children aged 13 & 9 can now sing several bits fluently.
This book presents the story in a child friendly way with simple versions of some of the music to play on piano (perhaps grade 3 level) or use the top line for flute, recorder etc. A really good way to explore the music more!
For those of us who have for years been swapping between Klemperer and Böhm and wishing for a recording synthesising the two casts - essentially Böhm's male singers and Klemperer's ladies - this is the best modern alternative. It seems to have been either overlooked or rather scorned by the critics; I'm not sure why.
In his first Mozart recording, Mackerras has no especially individual mark to put on the score but is simply concerned to deliver a lithe, nimble, pacy account. He coaxes delightful playing from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on modern instruments but with a minimum of vibrato and Romantic weight, and has an innate sense of Mozartian style. The original "Gramophone" review by Alan Blyth complained of over-reverberant sound; I find it ideal, so perhaps it has been tamed in some mild remastering; I don't know.
Given that we have three Americans and two British singers in the principal roles delivering the full Schikaneder spoken text and, ironically, mostly Germans in the subsidiary parts, there is a risk of the whole enterprise having too Anglo-Saxon an accent. Blyth complained of unidiomatic German from the Americans and the three Scottish boys who sing "Die drei jungen Knaben" while complimenting the two British linguists. It is true that Thomas Allen and Robert Lloyd sound most at home in the language but I doubt whether most listeners care that much; all sing beautifully and sound good enough to me.
No-one can touch Wunderlich in the role, but the late Jerry Hadley sings a lovely, boyish, flexible Tamino apart from little bleats in the approach to some higher notes. I love Barbara Hendricks' slightly grainy, flickering soprano and do not at all agree with Blyth that she sounds anonymous; this is a vulnerable, girlish Pamina with a soaring top. June Anderson surprises as the Queen of the Night. Her smoky timbre and an incipient beat make her sound uncannily like a more mature Joan Sutherland; she is a fierce Queen with all the notes even if she isn't Lucia Popp or Diana Damrau. Allen rivals Fischer-Dieskau for geniality, cunning inflection of the text and suavity of voice; this is a part ideally suited to his vocal and theatrical gifts. Robert Lloyd is sonorous and authoritative as Sarastro. The supporting cast is excellent, especially Peter Svensson and Gottfried Hornik doubling up as First Priest and First Armed Man, and Speaker and Second Priest, respectively.
This recording has been available as a super-bargain Brilliant issue and on Telarc; it is a cheap, delightful account of a perennial favourite, light-hearted and charming but still encompassing the darker undertones, balancing the comedy with the mystical, metaphysical implications.
As a bonus, a duet of dubious authenticity for Tamino and Papageno is provided; "Pamina, wo bist du?". It was first sung in a production by Schikaneder in 1802; Mackerras suggests that its gaucheries imply that it was elaborated from Mozart's sketch by an unknown hand, possibly the local Kapellmeister. It doesn't sound anything like echt mature Mozart to me.
This score is musically fine. The original German is there, and the Italian translation has been replaced by an English text. This works OK but is very old-fashioned and not a good text for modern performance.
While some people may know of P. Craig Russell from his contribution to Neil Gaiman's The Sandman ("Ramadan" #50) and the adaptation of the latter's short story "Murder Mysteries", he is actually famous for his adaptations of various opera pieces into the medium of comics. Now NBM has had the good taste to release a series of three volumes entitled The P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations once more making many of his adaptations available to new audiences. The Magic Flute is the first volume in this series and contains Russell's 138 pages long adaptation of Mozart's classical master piece. For those not familiar with the story (or perhaps not even opera), there is no need to worry. The Magic Flute is ultimately a very well told piece of fantasy (or fairy tale) with a sense of farce in it and Russell's artwork is very fitting for these kinds of stories. The Queen of Night sends Prince Pamino on a quest to rescue her daughter Pamina from the cruel despot Sarastro. Together with the bird-catcher Papageno, Prince Pamino enters an adventure that develops into a classic tale of good and evil. A must have for fans of P. Craig Russell or fantasy... or just about anybody who enjoys a well told story.
This book contains full score and full liberatto for this master piece. It's easy to read and can be used by amateurs, who want to enjoy the delicate music by Mozart, or by musicians, who want to play the music in their own orchestra with a bit of re-arraning first.