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Mozart - Die Zauberflote [Blu-ray]

4.5 out of 5 stars 126 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Simon Keenlyside, Dorothea Roeschmann, Will Hartmann, Diana Damrau, and Franz-Josef Selig star in this Royal Opera production of the Mozart opera conducted by Sir Colin Davis.


It’s hard to find a version of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte that’s as well sung as this 2003 Covent Garden production. Led by the eminent Mozartian, Sir Colin Davis, orchestra and singers present a warm, often intense vision of the opera, not as the fairy tale it’s often taken for, but as a human drama of the passage from misguided beliefs to mature knowledge of self. Diana Damrau is the Queen of the Night for our time, with show-stopping bravura singing that tosses off the score’s terrifying high notes with almost casual abandon. Her acting and her fright outfit never leave you in doubt that she’s the evil presence here, even when she’s pretending to be a good mom concerned about her daughter, Pamina. Dorothea Röschmann is superb, floating pianissimo notes to die for and singing with a beautifully rounded soprano allied to a dramatic sense that make her Ach, ich fuhl's so moving. Will Hartman is a virile Tamino, a bit heavier of voice than most of the lyric tenors who take the role, but singing well. Like most Tamino’s, he’s upstaged by Papageno, the bird-catcher who’s his sidekick. Baritone Simon Keenlyside offers the best-sung Papageno one could hope to hear, and while he’s funny in many of his more physical scenes, he replaces the usual clownish buffoon with an earth-bound Everyman. The noble Sarastro, the lovers’ guide to self-realization, is well sung by Franz-Josef Selig, whose ample bass easily encompasses the low Fs that make most basses sound strained.

The smaller roles are done well, too. Ailish Tynan has a romp as Papagena; the evil Monostatos is done to vocal and acting perfection by Adrian Thompson, the Queen’s Three Ladies are well-matched and appropriately edgy, and the Temple Priests are convincingly sung and acted. This production of Die Zauberflöte is a dark one. Producer David McVicar and conductor Davis reject the relatively recent transformation of the opera into a Disney-like romp for kids. The comic element in the opera is there, but its philosophical underpinnings--humanity’s fitful progress to a higher plane – are paramount. There are still plenty of laughs with the fake dragon that pursues Tamino at the opera’s opening and Papageno’s funny business with a bird, among other chuckle-inducing scenes. But the production’s Stygian backgrounds make for an oppressive setting. When light enters, as in the pomp of Sarastro’s entry or the blazing yellow disc of the sun that conquers darkness, the opera’s meanings are crystal-clear. Most of the characters wear 18th Century outfits, to comic effect as Monostatos’ heavy makeup, lipsticked mouth, and elaborate wig. But there are occasional incongruities: Tamino’s smock, the Three Boys’ knit sweaters and short pants, and Papagana’s mangy fur coat, among others. They’re well intregrated into the staging so they don’t jar. Nor, aside from the occasional too-tight closeups, does the video direction. In the special features, Davis speaks of the opera’s tension between "lighthearted music and the seriousness of the story," and all elements of this production fuse those key aspects in a way that makes this Blu-ray disc a joy to hear and watch. --Dan Davis

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Simon Keenlyside, Dorothea Röschmann, Diana Damrau, Will Hartmann, Sir Colin Davis
  • Directors: David McVicar
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Classical, Color, NTSC
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Opus Arte
  • DVD Release Date: April 29, 2008
  • Run Time: 182 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00142X56Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,129 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 22, 2003
Format: DVD
Many of us hold up as the standard filmed version of 'The Magic Flute' the one that Ingmar Bergman did at Drottningholm perhaps twenty years ago. Obviously the film opened up the stage and made the opera more cinematic than a staged version could be.
This DVD is of a production taped digitally in January 2003 at Covent Garden, a new production staged by David McVicar, designed by John Macfarlane and conducted by that eminent Mozartian, Sir Colin Davis. And, of course, it is simply of a stage production; there is no breaking down the walls of the stage. However, the direction for video is both masterful and unobtrusive. And then there's the production itself.
The leading singers are all quite wonderful. The only slightly less than top-drawer singer, in my opinion, is Franz-Josef Selig as Sarastro; he has the cavernous bass required for the part but there is an incipient wobble that distracts. In the 'wonderful' category are some singers previously unknown to me. Tamino is sung by a young German tenor, Will Hartmann, whose voice reminds me of that star German tenor of yesteryear, Rudolf Schock; it is not innately beautiful but it is solid, masculine and has a ringing top. His acting is basic but more than adequate; Tamino is not a role that calls for great acting. The Queen of the Night, Diana Damrau, is not one of those coloratura canaries so often assigned to the role; she is a dramatic coloratura and not only does she sing the role well, her acting is believable. Her makeup and costume make her look, appropriately, like a cross between Morticia Addams and Cruella de Vil. A scary lady. Pamina is sung, and acted believably, by German soprano Dorothea Röschmann. Her 'Ach, ich fuhl's' is moving and utterly gorgeous. She has floated high notes that cause gooseflesh.
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Format: DVD
In this DVD's special feature, renowned Mozart interpreter Sir Colin Davis states (or quotes another musician) that, "Mozart is simply God." He compares this composer's Singspiel in two acts to Shakespeare's valedictory work, "The Tempest," and relates that one of Mozart's characters actually quotes Prospero. This occurs when Sarastro is speaking of the Queen of the Night: "This thing of darkness I / Acknowledge mine" (5.1.275-76). How very appropriate since Mozart's librettist Schikaneder was among other things a Shakespearean actor. Mozart himself was said to be working on sketches for an operatic version of "The Tempest" when he died.
This production was filmed at the Royal Opera House, Convent Garden in January, 2003 and one of the most pleasing aspects of it is that the producer has achieved unity of music, text, and staging. As the conductor says, "you can be an old man like me or a little girl of seven..." and the 'Flute' will still enfold you in its trifold magic.
The designer, John Macfarlane chose an unusually dark Baroque setting--"When will this endless night be over?"--but there are flashes of brilliance, some of them paying homage to Ingmar Bergman's version of this opera, e.g. the scene in the Speaker of the Temple's study, the trials by water and fire, Pamina's attempted suicide, and Sarastro's final exit with the flute (although this Sarastro doesn't toss it gleefully into the air).
One of the most extraordinary aspects of this production is its Papageno. Simon Keenlyside is a nervy, cynical birdcatcher. He is not simple, so much as burned-out.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Let nothing I say here imply that this is less than a first-class production of Zauberflöte, and it's not a bad way to start one's collection of operas on Blu-ray. The singers are all at least good, if not uniformly great. The following singers are excellent: Simon Keenlyside (Papageno) with a voice that is expressive, well-managed, and handsome in every way, not to mention that his acting is a thorough delight; Diana Damrau (Queen of the Night), manic and technically and dramatically brilliant; and Dorothea Röschmann (Pamina) with creamy tone and perfect technique. This is not a girlish princess, which is to say that the role is often sung with a lighter voice; but I cannot complain about a voice as luxuriant as this. Sometimes Tamino and Pamina are presented as characters just barely out of their teens, which can suit the freshness and innocence implied by their roles; however, this thirtyish-looking couple works fine, too, especially as it allows us to experience fuller voices. Röschmann probably looks rather young from seats in the theater, but the Blu-ray close-ups aren't very flattering. The Three Ladies are also among the most excellent singers in this performance. Choral work is very good, as would be expected in Britain.

This performance falls short of the best in several respects. The first weakness I observed was during the overture, which failed to build much excitement or sense of anticipation for this evening of magic & music. I have never wholly understood why Colin Davis is held in such high regard as a Mozart & Haydn conductor (his reputation as a Berlioz interpreter is better deserved in my opinion).
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