Revival Flute

3 Mar

It’s interesting now and again to pop into a revival of the ROH’s standard productions. You know – the popular ones that get revived season after season, usually for long runs and where, if you are lucky, you might catch a promising debut. Or at least get a feel for the quality of the bread and butter. It’s a while since I’ve seen David McVicar’s Zauberflote so I thought I’d catch this revival and got to the performance on 2nd March.

I came out with slightly mixed feelings. What we had was a perfectly good evening, thoroughly enjoyable on its own terms but not one that I particularly expect to remember much about in six weeks time.

The ROH got McVicar in to rehearse the production. I think that probably accounts for a few things that felt new or which I didn’t remember from the last time I saw it, and a general crispness about the evening. It has charm, one or two nice images and knows what it’s doing. It’s hard to dislike. I think there could be more magic: the fire and water scene is visually pathetic and you get fed up of those trapdoors predictably opening and closing and of all those extras who rather clutter the place up. Visually it looks more than twelve years old and the opera really deserves a new production here. What I felt, in particular, was that McVicar failed to do much with many of the characters. You can’t fail with Papageno, but I didn’t get much that was interesting out of Sarastro, Monostatos, the Speaker, or the the three ladies – those characters that come on and sing and go off again. I also felt that the audience found the German dialogue heavy going, even with the surtitles.

So it was largely down to the music and individual singers and there was considerable pleasure to be had here. First, there was Toby Spence as Tamino and, I think, the finest that I’ve heard on stage. The voice has grown, there’s a heft to it and an edge that works well for this role. He grew in stature as the evening went on and I felt that here was a character actually going on a journey leading to a heroic, beautifiully sung fire and water scene which had been preceded by strong, impassioned singing in the trio and a really fine scene with the Speaker. Until now, I’d thought that Tamino began and ended with Dies Bildnis. Spence proved me wrong.

He was matched by his Pamina – Janai Brugger. She has a gorgeous, rich, creamy voice with just the right amount of vibrato. I suspect that she’ll be on to heavier roles than this in due course. She gave a fine account of Ach Ich fuhl’s but I remember particularly the way she sang Die Wahrheit and Tamino mein – two important tests for any Pamina. Here she sang them with a simplicity and directness that seemed effortless and went straight to the heart. I’ll look forward to hearing her again.

Markus Werba was the Papageno- sounding just a tad light for the house and probably best appreciated by German speakers – it was a fresh, unexaggerated performance that might have benefitted either from a bit more charm or broadness. Georg Zeppenfeld was good Sarastro, particularly fine in his second aria. Anna Siminska did both her arias well as the Queen of the Night.

The other roles were well enough done but I ought to mention the outstanding trio of ladies – Sinead Mulhearn, Nadezhda Karyazina and Claudia Huckle – who gave huge pleasure with their accurate, melliflous, well balanced singing.

I wasn’t hugely impressed by Cornelius Meister’s conducting. Tempi felt ok but the textures didn’t – I missed details that I love and heard too much of some parts at the expense of others. He doesn’t efface memories of Davis or Mackerras. The orchestra and chorus were decent enough but no more.

So perfectly respectable with fine parts. I enjoyed myself.

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