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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:  The Magic Flute
05 Mar 2006

MOZART: The Magic Flute

It would be presumptuous of me to go through the entire plot of The Magic Flute, given its historical and popular significance with all classical music devotees.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Magic Flute
Chandos Opera in English series

Barry Banks, Elizabeth Vidal, Rebecca Evans, Majella Cullagh, Sarah Fox, Diana Montague, Simon Keenlyside, Lesley Garrett, John Tomlinson, John Graham-Hall, Christopher Purves, Peter Bronder, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, Sir Charles Mackerras (cond.).

Chandos CHAN 3121(2) [2CDs]

$26.98  Click to buy

This 2-CD set is performed in English and by an English cast, with Barry Banks as Tamino, Elizabeth Vidal as Queen of the Night, Rebecca Evans as Pamina, Simon Keenlyside as Papageno, Lesley Garrett as Papagena, and John Tomlinson as Sarastro. It is a studio performance, and hence acoustically controlled. In this particular interpretation, the conductor has cited historical references which indicate that the tempi for this opera were considerably faster than late twentieth-century traditional performances. Pamina’s aria “Now I know that love can vanish” (“Ach, ich fuhl’s”) is particularly faster than normal, as are other movements marked Larghetto, Adagio, Andantino, and Andante. They are conducted at two slow beats per bar, rather than four or six. This different pulse throughout the opera is especially noticeable at the opening of the Overture, the duet “A man in search of truth and beauty” (“Bei Mannern”), the Boys’ first trio, Tamino’s “Flute” aria, the chorus “O Isis and Osiris” and its following trio, the Boys’ trio and Pamino’s attempted suicide, and the chorale prelude featuring the Two Armed Men. Appoggiaturas are sung according to the practice of Mozart’s time, with occasional improvised ornaments.

This reviewer prefers to listen to opera in its composed language, especially Mozart, whose genius and creative use of the German language is overwhelmingly apparent in The Magic Flute. Listening to it translated into English just doesn’t do it justice. The tempi incorporated into this recording certainly help move the opera along, but they are very different from traditional performances of this opera. It will be interesting to see whether the increased tempi will become the new performance standard or not.

Dr. Brad Eden
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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