Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

LABELS: TDK DVWW-OPMFP (NTSC system; DD 5.116:9 anamorphic)
WORKS: Die Zauberflöte
PERFORMER: Piotr Beczala, Dorothea Röschmann, Désirée Rancatore, Detlef Roth, Matti Salminen; Paris National Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Iván Fischer; dir. Benno Besson (Paris, 2001)
The Magic Flute is one of those works which is, in Schnabel’s famous phrase, ‘greater than it can be performed’. That said, this performance from the Palais Garnier in 2001 is in most respects better than any other Magic Flute I have seen, and in no respect less than excellent. The basis of its excellence is, as it must be, the conductor: Iván Fischer, who was so superb conducting Così in Glyndebourne last year, is just as fine in this very different work. His conducting is lucid, warm, expansive, precise and loving. The monumentality and contrapuntal energy of the overture is ideally captured, and the performance never looks back. The production and setting are traditional but never routine, the only surprising feature being that the members of Sarastro’s order alternate ceremonial dress with everyday contemporary clothes. Perhaps the point is that we are all capable of ascending the hard road to enlightenment, as the hero and heroine do, if we are sufficiently serious. The cast, if not ideal, is exceptionally consistent, with Dorothea Röschmann a more agile and intense Pamina than she has often been since. Tamino is taken with ardent sincerity and lovely tone by Piotr Beczala. Their reunion and passing through the ordeals of fire and water are the proper culminating point of the work. The great antagonists Sarastro and the Queen of Night are Matti Salminen, grand and secure, and Désirée Rancatore, hysterical and ferocious. But everyone deserves a mention and heartfelt gratitude.