Tuesday 17 October 2017

A visually flamboyant path to enlightenment: The Magic Flute at the Met

Mozart: The Magic Flute - Metropolitan Opera (photo Metropolitan Opera)
Mozart: The Magic Flute - Metropolitan Opera (photo Metropolitan Opera)
Mozart The Magic Flute; Golda Schultz, Charles Castronovo, Markus Werba, Kathryn Lewek, Rene Pape, dir: Julie Taymor, cond: James Levine; Met Live in HD
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on Oct 14 2017 Star rating: 4.0
Julie Taymor's fairy-tale production in a strong revival at the Metropolitan Opera

Julie Taymor’s kaleidoscopic fairy-tale vision of Mozart's The Magic Flute was broadcast live from the Metropolitan Opera this Saturday (14 October 2017, seen at Barbican Screen One) with Golda Schultz and Charles Castronovo as Pamina and Tamino. Markus Werba was the birdcatcher Papageno, Kathryn Lewek the Queen of the Night and Rene Pape as Sarastro. James Levine, Music Director Emeritus, conducted.

Best known for her production of The Lion King, Julie Taymor’s visually arresting fantasy Flute draws inspiration from more cultures than you can shake a stick at. African masks, oriental puppetry, Euclidian geometry and Chinese opera all rubbing shoulders in whimsical grandeur. The dominant feature, a Plexiglas cube, rotates to reveal the symbols of spirituality (circle) and the physical (square). Contained within a triangle, man, woman and the two halves of our nature are united. Ultimately aligned, the philosopher’s stone is revealed – the Magnum Opus of alchemy.

Occasionally fussily intrusive in close-up, this production is undoubtedly dominated by it’s visuals but thankfully, under the sensitive direction of James Levine, the music is never overwhelmed. The acting wasn’t half bad either; the number of times, in the past, I’ve found myself wishing that they’d just get on with the music. It was a pleasure to hear the dialogue so charmingly and convincingly handled. Indeed the stage was chocker with charismatic performers.

Charles Castronovo a genuinely dashing Shaolin warrior, making Tamino an archetypal hero, had a full-bodied and even toned voice. He was easily able to negotiate the tricksy “Dies Bildnis” but in channelling Stentor quite so often we did miss out on some lovelorn vulnerability. Golda Shultz’s unforced creamy soprano, if occasionally coarsened at the top, was a delight. “Ach, ich fuhl’s” was a gem of rare beauty. Markus Werba’s artless Papageno, a deliciously expressive baritone, imprisoned in a cage of his own making; but his cod-piece as a gag? ewww! Kathryn Lewek’s shimmering turn as a winged Queen of the Night was visually as well as vocally dazzling. Her supreme confidence in “O zittre nicht” capped by a particularly showy top F – metaphorically flipping the bird. Still, it made me giggle and she brought the house down.

Rene Pape had the necessary orotund paternal dignity as Sarastro and the whole confection was decorated by a batty Monostatos, a spritely Papagena and some very unnerving disembodied ladies - our flamboyant passage from chaos to rationality was complete.
Reviewed by Anthony Evans

Mozart: Die Zauberflote
Saturday 14 October 2017
Met Opera Live
Barbican Screen One
Pamina : Golda Schultz
Tamino : Charles Castronovo
Papageno : Markus Werba
Queen of the Night : Kathryn Lewek
Sarastro : Rene Pape
Conductor : James Levine
Director : Julie Taymor

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