Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Natalya Romaniw - Arion: Voyage of a Slavic Soul

Sailing home to Corinth, bearing treasures won in a music competition, the mythic Greek bard, Arion, found his golden prize coveted by pirates and his life in danger.

Purcell’s The Indian Queen from Lille

Among the few compensations opera lovers have had from the COVID crisis is the abundance – alas, plethora – of streamed opera productions we might never have seen or even known of without it.

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

A wonderful role debut for Natalya Romaniw in ENO's revival of Minghella's Madama Butterfly

The visual beauty of Anthony Minghella’s 2005 production of Madama Butterfly, now returning to the Coliseum stage for its seventh revival, still takes one’s breath away.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Seattle

It appears that Charlie Parker’s Yardbird has reached the end of its road in Seattle. Since it opened in 2015 at Opera Philadelphia it has played Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and the English National Opera.

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

Seventeenth-century rhetoric from The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

‘Yes, in my opinion no rhetoric more persuadeth or hath greater power over the mind; hath not Musicke her figures, the same which Rhetorique? What is a but her Antistrophe? her reports, but sweet Anaphora's? her counterchange of points, Antimetabole's? her passionate Aires but Prosopopoea's? with infinite other of the same nature.’

Hrůša’s Mahler: A Resurrection from the Golden Age

Jakub Hrůša has an unusual gift for a conductor and that is to make the mightiest symphony sound uncommonly intimate. There were many moments during this performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony where he grappled with its monumental scale while reducing sections of it to chamber music; times when the power of his vision might crack the heavens apart and times when a velvet glove imposed the solitude of prayer.

Full-Throated Troubador Serenades San José

Verdi’s sublimely memorable melodies inform and redeem his setting of the dramatically muddled Il Trovatore, the most challenging piece to stage of his middle-period successes.

Opera North deliver a chilling Turn of the Screw

Storm Dennis posed no disruption to this revival of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, first unveiled at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2010, but there was plenty of emotional turbulence.

Luisa Miller at English National Opera

Verdi's Luisa Miller occupies an important position in the composer's operatic output. Written for Naples in 1849, the work's genesis was complex owing to problems with the theatre and the Neapolitan censors.

Eugène Onéguine in Marseille

A splendid 1997 provincial production of Tchaikovsky’s take on Pushkin’s Bryonic hero found its way onto a major Provençal stage just now. The historic Opéra Municipal de Marseille possesses a remarkable acoustic that allowed the Pushkin verses to flow magically through Tchaikovsky’s ebullient score.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Klaus Kuttler as Monostatos and Julia Novikova as The Queen of Night [Photo © Hans Jörg Michel courtesy of Salzburger Festival]
05 Oct 2012

Mozart’s Ghost finds its Way through Das Labyrinth

W.A. Mozart, despite a historically antagonistic relationship with his city of birth, retains an omnipresence in Salzburg that emerges in full force with each iteration of the illustrious summer festival.

Peter von Winter: Das Labyrinth

A review by Rebecca Schmid

Above: Klaus Kuttler as Monostatos and Julia Novikova as The Queen of Night [Photo © Hans Jörg Michel courtesy of Salzburger Festival]

 

The indulgence reached its pinnacle in 2006—fifty years prior to his tercentenary—with the staging of all 22 of his operas, including early works which scholars have discovered to have been co-authored by his father, Leopold. This season, the new Intendant Alexander Pereira has brushed the dust off another 18th-century obscurity, written not by W.A. himself but in posthumous tribute to his last opera, Die Zauberflöte. The librettist and impresario Emmanuel Schickaneder, eager to ride the success of the Singspiel, set to work writing a sequel, Das Labyrinth, and found a willing partner in the composer Peter von Winter. The work was premiered at the Theater an der Wien in 1798, seven years after Mozart’s death and the premiere of Die Zauberflöte.

To Schickaneder ‘s credit, the ambiguous nature of good and evil in the original libretto continues to provide scholars with endless fodder. When Goethe heard of the Das Labyrinth’s success in 1803, he began penning his own sequel which was left incomplete after the fruitless search for a composer. While Goethe develops the story in a more Romantic direction, endowing Tamino and Pamina with a son, the Genius, and augmenting the magical powers of both the Queen of the Night and Sarastro, the trajectory of Schickaneder’s sequel does not depart much from Die Zauberflöte despite the introduction of several new characters and a labyrinth which represents the final trial for Tamino and Pamina (never mind that Sarastro already initiated them into his sun circle). Meanwhile, the Queen is scheming not only with the moor Monostatos but Tipheus, King of Paphos, who vies for Pamina’s hand. They manage to briefly abduct the princess, but the Queen must ultimately cede to Sarastro’s powers when Tamino defeats Tipheus in a duel. Papageno and Papagena, who have discovered a large extended family, also help suppress evil by capturing Monostatos.

Winter’s score faithfully adopts strains of the original opera with a range of success. The first duet of Papageno and Papagena, “Lalaera! Lara! Lara!,” is a pleasant spinoff of “Pa, pa, pa…” without directly rehashing Mozart’s melodies. The chorus of priests that ends the eleventh scene of Act One is skilfully crafted, a ghost of Mozart’s incomparable harmonies, yet it would have been better placed at the very end of the act. The Queen’s opening aria “Ha! Wohl mir! Höre es, Natur” reveals that Winter studied his late Mozart operas carefully, with strong hints of his proto-Romanticism, yet it is melodically not very inventive, and the firework coloratura that characterizes the role is reduced to a passage of uninspired runs toward the end. The sequel’s Pamina is assigned more virtuosity than her original counterpart, but sadly, the spin-off to the aria “Ach, ich fühl’s”—“ Ach! Ich muss alleine tragen”—gives no musical indication of her longing to die and instead culminates in meaningless coloratura. The Three Women, here named Venus, Amor and Page, get some nice numbers, revealing Winter’s talent for colourful, pseudo-Mozartean scoring, and yet the effort could have been more self-conscious. The five-note motive representing the magic flute does not emerge once, not even when Sarastro hands it to Tamino for protection before he enters the labyrinth.

Despite the worn-out qualities of the piece, it has its genuinely charming moments, particularly with Papageno and his clan. In the Salzburg production, seen August 26, the young Austrian baritone Thomas Tatzl stole the show as the feathered bird catcher, joking to the audience with tireless charisma and a naturally warm, well-projected voice. Swiss soprano Regula Mühlemann was also delightful as Papagena. The celebrated tenor Michael Schade was the stand-out of the evening from a purely vocal perspective in the role of Tamino, while Malin Hartelius was more uneven as Pamina, struggling to overcome the unfavourable acoustics of the Residenzhof, a covered courtyard where audience members sat with blankets on their laps to ward of the chill of the Salzburger Schnürrregen (sudden rainfall). The bass of Christoff Fischesser similarly risked being swallowed in the role of Sarastro. As the Queen of the Night, Julia Novikova was strongest in pure lyric moments. The baritone Klaus Kuttler was a frustrated Monostatos, and Anton Scharinger amusing as the Older Papageno.

The Three Women (Nina Bernsteiner, Christina Daletska, and Monia Bohinec) brought fine singing to the stage, as did members of the Festival Children’s Choir who appeared to Tamino as the “Three Genies” after Monostatos’ attempt to abduct Papagena. The Salzburger Bachchor, prepared by Alois Glassner, did full justice to Winter’s choral numbers, and Ivor Bolton led the Orchestra of the Mozarteum in a characteristically crisp, authentic reading of the score, even if it occasionally lacked elegance. Sets by Raimund Orfeo Voigt started out inauspiciously with a mini-proscenium of a theatre that looked straight out of a high-school production but improved with towering black panels punctured with light to represent Sarastro’s circle. Costumes by Elisabeth Binder-Neururer were designed in the local tradition of semi-rococo but reached their apex in the colourful Lederhosen- and Tracht-inspired garb of the Papageno family. The dancing, feathered children of the finale reaffirmed Salzburg as an anachronism Mozart might never have imagined could exist over three centuries after his death.

Rebecca Schmid

Click here for cast and production information.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):