Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Die Zauberflöte
CAST: Sarastro: José van Dam, Tamino: Francisco Araiza, Königin der Nacht: Karin Ott, Pamina: Edith Mathis, Papageno: Gottfried Hornik, Papagena: Janet Perry, Sprecher: Claudio Nicolai, Erste Dame: Anna Tomawa-Sintow, Zweite Dame: Agnes Baltsa, Dritte Dame: Hanna Schwarz, Monostatos: Heinz Kruse, Erster Knabe: Wolfgang Bünten, Zweiter Knabe: Tobias Pfülb, Dritter Knabe: Christian Schulz
Chor der Deutsche Oper Berlin
Chorus Master: Walter Hagen-Groll
Herbert von Karajan, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 1980
When you think about Mozart’s discography, the name of conductor Herbert von Karajan stands out both for quality and quantity of recordings. He recorded Die Zauberflöte several times, beginning with the recording made in 1950 with Irmgard Seefried, Wilma Lipp, Anton Dermota and Erich Kunz and returning to the Singspiel repeatedly in the next decades. The present review refers to the recording released in 1980.
Herbert von Karajan and Die Zauberflöte
In his conduction, Karajan handles Die Zauberflöte with such exquisiteness and grace to make it close to a poem. Lyricism is actually the guiding thread of this rendition. The Berliner Philharmoniker reach surprising peaks of smoothness and finesse and the subtlety of shading and dynamic is well integrated with the richness and breadth of the melodic ideas. The choice of tempi is attentively measured and the slowing down or quickening some pieces is always justified by the aim to give the opera a pure and yet intense atmosphere.
The choruses are sumptuous, but never pompous, while there the psychology of the protagonists is carefully deepened. I will make the examples of the Queen of the Night and of Papageno because they are the most significant. The two appearances of the Queen of the Night are introduced thoughtfully, but without renouncing to define the threat and danger of this evil character. Also Papageno is well characterized by the sympathetic, lively orchestral accompaniment. His arias are gloriously bright and the music reveals the character’s wit (in his last aria, both celesta and bells are used).
Therefore, Karajan’s conduction is perfectly balanced between the fantastic elements and the – deliberately – stupefied meditation on humanity of Die Zauberflöte.
Die Zauberflöte: Singers
What is interesting to notice about the singers is how they conform themselves to the conductor’s vision. Sometimes this compliance limits their interpretation, but on the other hand it makes them converge in one direction. Francisco Araiza, mindful of other remarkable performances in Mozart’s operas, sings Tamino with remarkable romanticism and elegance, and has in Edith Mathis an exceptional Pamina. Mathis has all the qualities (pure timbre, impeccable technique, grace and humanity) to give the heroine a sensitive soul, far from superfluous pathos and admirable for her elegant simplicity. Gottfried Hornik is a little calmer and, as Papageno, he is nice and even funny, but in his friendliness there is more courtesy than vivacity. Apart from this, however, it is a pleasure to listen to him. His Papagena is charming and lively, finely sung by Janet Perry.
Karin Ott is deceitful enough to be a persuasive Queen of the Night. She immediately reveals that she should not be trusted and her voice is ringing and smooth, very well delivered. For his part, José von Dam is an excellent Sarastro, whose wisdom and profound compassion are perfectly recognizable in his warm voice.
Finally, I would like to mention the three Ladies of the Queen of Night, who in this recording are performed by the perfect trio Anna Tomawa-Sintow – Agnes Baltsa – Hanna Schwarz. Each of their intercessions or interferences is absolutely adorable.Buy from Amazon