DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

MOZART: Die Zauberflöte (complete opera), Blu-ray (2013)

This ghastly rendition, though presented in splendid sound and vivid Blu-ray, should never have been.

Published on January 8, 2014

MOZART: Die Zauberflöte (complete opera), Blu-ray (2013)

MOZART: Die Zauberflöte (complete opera), Blu-ray (2013)

(The Magic Flute)
Alfred Reiter (Sarastro)/Norman Reinhardt (Tamino)/ Bernada Bobro (Pamina)/ Ana Durlovski (Queen of the Night)/ Daniel Schmutzhard (Papageno)/ Denise Beck (Papagena)/Vienna Symphony/ Patrick Summers, cond.
Director: David Pountney
Studio: CMajor (Unitel Classica) 713804, 2013 [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 1080i for 16:9 color
Audio: PCM Stereo, DTS-HD MA 5.0 Surround
Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Korean, Chinese
Region Code A, B, C
Length: 150 minutes
Rating: **1/2:

I had hopes for this thing when it first arrived, especially since I adore this opera. A lakeside production, live, beautiful, what could go wrong?

Just about everything, as it turns out. First the singing, which because of this production becomes the least important item, as the dialog is there in true singspiel fashion yet the distances in the physicality of the set make it impossible to really delve into the intimacy of the texts. Musically, the orchestra is excellent and Summers, a fine conductor, keeps things moving at a reasonable pace with no lingering yet no rushing either. The principals are all okay, nothing special, as they are heavily miked but also lack the better degrees of tonal opulence, something else needed in this opera. Only the Papageno and Papagena come through with somewhat shining stars, while the two main characters are technically adept for the most part but generally unexpressive. Sarastro is plain awful, and the Queen of the Night has some rhythm problems, probably exacerbated by the setup—she sings her big aria around 30 precarious feet up in the air on what looks like a not-so-secure platform (though I am sure it is).

But the sets quickly dissolve into stereotypical Eurotrash after first being bowled over by their sheer size and complexity. The production, quite simply, totally dominates the intimacy of Mozart’s original (still best seen on DVD in the classic Bergman filmed production) and tries to turn it into some kind of Peter Jackson-like “Lord of the Flutes” with so many phenomenally designed action figures (the three women are gigantic 20-foot high puppets) that one is hard-pressed to believe that the audience is being asked to sit and watch them “sing” to them. After a while it gets rather insulting.

Worst of all in my opinion however are the musical decisions made by who knows who to eliminate the two acts and merge them together into one, leaving out the marvelous ending to Act 1 and proceeding directly to Act 2—one of the stupidest decisions I have ever had the misfortune to witness. Of course, the lake is beautiful (filmed at the Bregenzer Festival) as the sun sets during the course of the opera, and I am sure that all present, in true Disney fashion, had a great time, especially if drinks were served. But Mozart would have spilled his beans over this technological thrashing, and even though the thing must have cost a fortune, it appears to be more of something created for pure entertainment and spectacle value that any sort of serious artistic endeavor. Mozart who? Avoid.

—Steven Ritter




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