Mozart Die Zauberflöte
1991 is just 21 years ago, but watch this DVD filmed at that year’s Salzburg Festival and one instantly registers how much clearer and brighter such permanent records are these days. Decca apologises for the quality of the archival tapes in the booklet; certainly the grainy, dully coloured visuals are the issue’s greatest demerit.
But it’s not really a vintage cast or production either. Filmed in the Grosses Festspielhaus – not exactly an ideal theatrical setting for the piece – Johannes Schaaf’s staging, designed by Rolf and Marianne Glittenberg, is bland and lacking in the finer detail Mozart’s Masonic comedy deserves. Deon van der Walt’s Tamino is buoyant and likeable, however, though Ruth Ziesak’s Pamina is artful and sometimes thin-toned. Luciana Serra’s Queen of the Night is uneven, much more secure in her second-act aria than in her first. Anton Scharinger is a generally endearing Papageno, joining conductor Sir Georg Solti in the pit for his ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’ number in Act II, when Sir Georg plays the glockenspiel obbligato (as Mozart was known to do on occasion). It’s a significant moment, as he had first done so at Salzburg back in 1937, when Toscanini was in charge of the music. In the interim years Solti had risen to become a leading conductor in major opera houses – not least Covent Garden – though his relationship with Salzburg remained patchy until after the death of Karajan. It’s for his vital, impeccably controlled account that this otherwise rather ordinary Flute is likely to be valued.