Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

LABELS: Berliner Philharmoniker
ALBUM TITLE: Die Zauberflöte
WORKS: Die Zauberflöte
PERFORMER: Pavol Breslik, Kate Royal, Dimitry Ivashchenko, Ana Durlovski, Michael Nagy, Regula Mühlemann, Annick Massis, Magdalena Kozˇená etc; Berlin Philharmonic/Sir Simon Rattle


Director Robert Carsen counted more than 60 references to death in Die Zauberflöte; so it’s perhaps no surprise to find Tamino clambering out of a grave at the start of this production for last spring’s Baden-Baden Easter Festival. The Three Ladies are in mourning, Monostatos and his crew are gravediggers, and Sarastro and company, who seem to inhabit Pluto’s realm of darkness, are blindfolded.

Think Eros and Thanatos; think the battle between life, love and death. Think, too, of the need for Tamino and Pamina to grow away from parental relationships, embodied in Sarastro and the Queen of the Night – who, incidentally, are in cahoots. You need quite a pool of literary reference for this production which, although it’s as thoughtful and searching as Carsen’s work often tends to be, is short on any sense of real enchantment or wonder.

The cast is generally strong, if not outstanding: I particularly enjoyed soprano Kate Royal’s deeply musical and ever-anguished Pamina, and soprano Ana Durlovski’s superbly robust Queen of Night. Simon Rattle, who claims to have spent his life avoiding this opera, is indeed not totally at ease with it. His deliberately volatile and sometimes unstable tempos actually help to deprive this performance of the spark and the strength that surely could be drawn from the excellent playing of the Berlin Philharmonic.

Rattle’s illuminating 17-minute introduction to the opera itself is
a true Bonus; as is a refreshingly honest and plain-speaking interview with Carsen. I wouldn’t, though,
be over-thrilled to find this under
my Christmas tree.


Hilary Finch