MOZART Die Zauberflöte (Nézet-Séguin)
Six down, with Idomeneo – one hopes – still to come. Once again, Yannick Nézet-Séguin proves himself to be a consummate Mozartian. In the opening number, the Three Ladies are delightfully light and airy; the playing of the orchestra, when Papageno enters before discovering Pamina, is beautifully pointed. At the end of Act 1 the chorus and orchestra crescendo through their phrases as one. The postlude to Pamina’s ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’ increases in intensity as well as volume, and the call to arms before the fugue that introduces the chorale in the Act 2 finale is splendidly brassy. The only place where Nézet-Séguin disappoints is in his matter-of-fact handling of the glorious chain of suspensions signifying the final emergence of the sun’s rays before Sarastro’s last words.
Christiane Karg and Albina Shagimuratova repeat or, rather, anticipate their performances on the recent DVD from Salzburg (C Major, 9/19), while Regula Mühlemann’s Papagena has been seen on the Simon Rattle/Robert Carsen production from Baden-Baden (EuroArts, 12/13). Karg makes little of Pamina’s great cry of ‘Die Wahrheit!’ (‘The truth!’) before the entrance of Sarastro but tugs at the heartstrings in her poignant aria. Shagimuratova has the Queen of the Night’s top notes all right but she doesn’t muster the boiling rage of, for instance, Lucia Popp on the studio Klemperer recording (EMI/Warner, 11/64).
Tareq Nazmi, also on the Salzburg DVD, is a fine, grave Speaker. Franz-Josef Selig might lack the smooth tones of Kurt Moll or René Pape but he is impressive nonetheless. His singing of ‘In diesen heil’gen Hallen’ is tender, with an exemplary attention to the articulation of the words. Klaus Florian Vogt is best known as a Wagnerian but his voice is still light enough for Mozart. He does well enough, but the ‘Portrait’ aria is pallid and his phrasing of ‘Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton’ lacks elegance. How one longs for the ardour of Fritz Wunderlich on the Böhm recording. Casting the tenor Rolando Villazón in a baritone role was a risk. He says in the booklet that Schikaneder, the first Papageno, was an actor rather than a professional singer; but Villazón sounds like a (very good) professional singer out of his comfort zone, in a role that is best taken by a singer who is at home in Viennese comedy. His glockenspiel is as hard to hear as the one in the Abbado recording (DG, 6/06); perhaps it’s the same instrument.
First-rate conducting, then, but overall a contribution to this excellent series which is slightly below par. For the real deal, go to the second Solti recording or to the classic Böhm.