LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Die Zauberflöte
PERFORMER: Andreas Schmidt, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Beverly Hoch, Dawn Upshaw; Schütz Choir of London, London Classical Players/Roger Norrington
CATALOGUE NO: VMD 5 61384 2 Reissue (1991)
While there’s no obvious benchmark, Karl Böhm’s 1964 recording puts Roger Norrington’s 1991 performance into vivid perspective. Where Böhm offers a metaphysical drama, Norrington gives us a Schikaneder-style pantomime. Of the two, Mozart would doubtless have preferred Norrington’s brisk comedy, delighting in the ad libitum growls from Sarastro’s real lions. He might have been less happy with Norrington’s rather lightweight female singers: Beverly Hoch’s milk-and-water Queen of the Night, Dawn Upshaw’s Pamina sounding as juvenile as the Three Boys (actually girls). The pity is that Norrington throws away so much that’s genuinely fresh and exciting in his approach, refusing to let up through major and minor alike.
Upshaw is driven helter-skelter through the runs in ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’, given no time to spin the line and develop the desirable vocal allure. The men are more successful in holding their own, with Andreas Schmidt’s Papageno preferable to Böhm’s rather barkish Fischer-Dieskau, and Anthony Rolfe Johnson’s lyrical Tamino up there with Fritz Wunderlich’s heroic characterisation for Böhm. The depressing thing is that in neither of these recordings are the singers entirely of one mind with their conductors. Patrick Carnegy