Mozart’s Masterpiece

Mozart’s Zauberfloete

This is a 2-DVD set that documents the performance of the Mozart masterpiece from the Salzburg, Austria, performances of 1982. The conductor is James Levine and the stage director is Jean-Pierre Ponnelle.

In some operas you have 2 lead stars; in this opera there are so many important singers that any one of them can pretty well ruin a performance. Any conductor will tell you that in Mozart’s Zauberfloete, not only the role of Tamino and Pamina must be sung by outstanding performers, but then there is the Queen of the Night, the role of Sarastro, the roles of Papageno and Papagena, and the three ladies, and more…

Bottom line: It’s really tough to assemble a cast that can pull off an exemplary performance.

In this opera, only one role came across as cast by a strong singer, and that is Edita Gruberova as Queen of the Night. Her key arias were excellently done, in tune, with strong, clear voice, and overcoming the huge opportunities for failure!

The other lead singers – in my view – were OK, but did not send shivers up my spine. I would single out Martti Talvela in the role of Sarastro, as being somewhat weak. While his acting was acceptable, his singing was frequently sub-standard in my view. There are a few spots where he is not in tune. And his voice “runs out of gas” in spots were great emphasis is needed.

Mr. Ponnelle, as the stage director, created a very fine set of images. Overall, however, this is a performance that I did not enjoy very much.

Here is Levine’s Overture at a much better performance:

Tags: Mozart, Magic Flute, 1982 Salzburg Festival

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