Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute)
Daniel Behle, Marlis Petersen, Daniel Schmutzhard,Sunhae Im, Marcos Fink, Anna-Kristiina Kaappola, Kurt Azesberger, Inga Kalna, Konstantin Wolff; RIAS Kammerchor; Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/René Jacobs
Harmonia Mundi HMC 902068.70
Anyone tempted to programme the remote-control to skip over the dialogue in this Zauberflöte will rue the day. For this is a total experience, perfectly tailored for private listening. René Jacobs thinks of it as a Hörspiel: it’s a play to be heard – and I don’t know a recorded Zauberflöte more thrillingly alive with fantasy, profoundly musical imagination, real magic, and real fun too.
As with Jacobs’s take on the Da Ponte operas and Mozart’s opere serie, it is controversial, and some will love it while others loathe it. Whether it be recitative or dialogue, it’s always of prime importance to Jacobs. And here he allows voices to counterpoint, to overlap, to blur the line between speech and song.
Plenty of Austrian singers around to provide dialect where apt (Daniel Schmutzhard is a personable Papageno, from the Vienna Volksoper, and Kurt Azesberger a slightly under-characterised but irresistible Monostatos). A fortepiano anticipates and enhances; a particularly magic flute plays snatches from other Mozart works; and there are sound effects aplenty: the purification scene is a veritable journey to the centre of the earth.
This Tamino is the young, soft-grained tenor of Daniel Behle; and, singing with both simplicity and strength, Marlis Petersen is a Pamina of melting loveliness. Within this muted palette of voices, Anna-Kristiina Kaappola is given time really to sing her Queen of Night; Marcos Fink (brother of Bernarda) has a true bass range, but comes across as a kindly and unponderous Sarastro.
Everything is lit by Jacobs’s unique fusion of musical instinct and painstaking scholarship, and is supported by a hefty booklet of essays and libretto.