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Miriam Ryen as the Queen of the Night and Jennifer O’Loughlin as Pamina (Volksoper Wien, 1 May 2007)
30 May 2007

Die Zauberflöte at the Volksoper

Serpents, abduction, magic flutes, a sacred priesthood and, of course….love, are a few of the elements Mozart used to comprise his mason-influenced collaboration with Emanuel von Schikaneder.

W.A. Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Wiener Volksoper, 1 May 2007

Above: Miriam Ryen as the Queen of the Night and Jennifer O’Loughlin as Pamina


The Wiener Volksoper’s 2007 production of Die Zauberflöte is rich with visual effects, including a large mechanical dragon that emerges from the depths of the stage, a vibrant rotating set complete with “living” statues who are elevated high above the stage; a gargantuan telescope and fire set the scene for what was unfortunately a mediocre production, other than a few glimmering aspects.

The Overture was well-effected but somewhat mechanical and it lacked in the necessary colours and shading that Mozart’s music demands. Conductor, Elisabeth Attl seemed to have little influence over the orchestra that in some moments seemed to be just going through the motions. The three ladies, sung by Edith Lienbacher, Sulie Girardi, and Andrea Bönig looked fabulous in matching gowns and hats (and later clad in leather and tattoos) complete with walking canes, however their singing was often strident and in what should be a unified harmonic ensemble there were inconsistencies in unity.

Die Königin der Nacht (Queen of the Night) was eloquently sung by Miriam Ryen, who had a brilliant and laser-like upper tessitura and beautiful agility in her coloratura passages, however the orchestra often overpowered her and thus obscured her musicality. Her Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen was visually exciting with an electric red sky from which hung an enormous crescent moon. Some intonation problems affected her performance of this aria, that also lacked the tremendous rage that Mozart expected here.

Papageno was performed by Mathias Hausmann who possesses a lovely burnished baritone to match his consummate dramatic abilities. His Der Volgelfänger bin ich ja was not only amusing, but sung with much inflection and attention to detail. Unfortunately, the following entrance by Daniel Behle, as Tamino, left much to be desired. His Dies Bildinis ist bezanbernd schön lacked the brilliant sound that the aria requires and his acting was somewhat superficial throughout the opera. One wondered if he was really in love with Pamina or not.

Pamina’s entrance was visually wonderful, as she was dragged in by Monostatos (played by Wolfgang Gratschmaier) in a large net. American Soprano, Jennifer O’Loughlin’s Pamina was artistically beyond the rest of her cast. She effected every entrance with lovely spinning tones in a deep golden hue in her middle voice, and her musicality was well-suited to the lyricism Mozart demanded of a superb Pamina. The orchestra, however, was highly insensitive to Ms. O’Loughlin’s middle and lower registers and failed to match her musical nuances. A sensitive and believable actress, her Ach, ich Fühl’s es ist verschwunden was luscious and effected with impeccable diction, and well-floated pianissimi that give credit to her vocal technique.

Lars Woldt, in the role of the Sprecher, possessed a strong and well-projected voice, and his presence added to the overall dramatic impetus of the production. In addition, Kaiser Nkosi’s Sarastro opened Act II with strong dramatic and vocal qualities. His middle register was a lovely purple hue, however he lacked resonance in his lower tessitura, an unfortunate detail that affected the strength of Sarastro’s character.

Jennifer O’Loughlin and the Wiener Sängerknaben

Some of the most comical moments to which the audience responded belonged to Papageno and Papagena (comedically played alla Lucille Ball by Renée Schüttengruber). Complete with hot pink wig, and the whiniest fabricated voice, Papagena stole Papageno’s heart, and the audience’s as well. If anything stood out in this production it was the musicality and unity of the “Three Boys” who were played by the Wiener Sängerknaben. Mozart’s opera is imbued with many numerical elements in groups of three and these trios (the three spirits, the three ladies, and three priests in the temple) should be unified textually and harmonically. The three boys were perhaps the most precise musically and kudos go out to them for stealing the show. Although a visually interesting production, the orchestra often marred the musicality of the singers, and most bothersome was how members of the orchestra got up and left the pit during the opera and then returned to later, not only disturbing the dramatic action but also creating a general lack of continuity in the musical fabric.

Mary-Lou Vetere-Borghoff
PhD (ABD), M.A., Mus.B

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