Photo: Mike Hoban
Royal Opera House
Where: West End
2 February 2011 WOS Rating: Average Reader Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews
David McVicar’s much-loved production of
Die Zauberflöte is receiving its fourth revival at the Royal Opera House, and its appeal hasn’t yet faded, judging by the absence of empty seats and the packed standing areas. The combination of McVicar’s utopian vision of a male-dominated world whose virtues are founded on knowledge and righteousness, Schikaneder’s witty and uncomplicated-despite-being-heavily-laced-with-freemasonry libretto, and Mozart’s feel-good music has become one of ROH’s staple productions – all the omens were good, as I settled into my seat.
But just over three hours later, I arose feeling distinctly unsatisfied. Not completely, I should add: this was the first time I’d heard Christopher Maltman sing the role of Papageno – I missed the 2008 revival of this Flute, in which he appeared as the bird-catcher for the first time – and his superb physical acting and excellent comic timing, allied to a glorious vocal showing, made it the most enjoyable and entertaining aspect of the evening. Franz-Josef Selig created the role of Sarastro in the original 2003 production and has returned for each revival since: his warm, firm singing, imposing stage presence, and impeccable diction – understandably head and shoulders above the rest, as the only native German speaker in the cast – received much well-deserved cheering at the curtain call.
Sir Colin Davis has been conducting
Die Zauberflöte longer than most of the cast have been alive, and his well-honed interpretation falls firmly into the ‘traditional’ camp, unswayed by the fleet-footedness of period performance. However, he’s no slouch, and while I thought the opening items of the second half (the Priests’ March and Sarastro’s aria ‘O Isis und Osiris’) dragged somewhat (giving the otherwise unflappable Selig his only moment of discomfort on the night), the rest of the time his tempi were just right, full of verve and yet momentous in the overture, and at all times a responsive and sensitive accompanist.
And I’m afraid that, from my point of view, that that was it. The performance was blighted throughout by untidy ensemble, uncoordinated vocal entries and unsteady singing (although special praise goes to the three Boys, who kept time, rhythm and energy in a manner that put many of their older colleagues to shame). A friend with insider knowledge of the ROH remarked that with popular productions the rehearsal time often shrinks with each revival: whether or not that’s true, it certainly seemed that most of the problems on display could have been solved with a solid day or two of rehearsal.
Kate Royal, returning as Pamina, showed what a beautiful instrument she has, and convinced in showing both the noble and child-like aspects of the character; however, her continual body-swaying while singing became off-putting rather quickly – undesirable in the lead female role. Joseph Kaiser’s Tamino oscillated between well and woodenly acted, and vocally was lightweight, although clean and agile. Jessica Pratt, making her ROH debut as the Queen of the Night, has the commendable attribute that her voice doesn’t narrow in volume or tone as she ascends to the stratosphere: however, to put it another way, her lower range is small and doesn’t have much ‘bloom’, and although she successfully hit all her highest notes after the first, she did not convince as ‘die sternflammende Königin der Nacht’ of magical power and murderous intent.
- Adrian Horsewood
Score Comment Date We were very lucky with our seats, saw perfectly and I had nothing to comment on Odinius, nor the other performances. I thought Franz-Josef Selig and Kate Royal were very impressive, and I very much enjoyed Christopher Maltmans Papageno. Jessica Pratt handled the pressure of "Der Hölle Rache" flawlessly. I almost expected to be disappointed since I have never warmed to opera story-wise, but it was a great musical experience. - Hanna C 12 Feb 11 Our seats were poor, inspite of the price (stalls circle left, Row B 51 & 52) We couldn't see over the heads of the people in front and spent the whole of the performance craning our necks from side to side. Also, the tenor, Joseph Kaiser didn't perform, due to illness and his replacement Lothar Odinius, though his voice was pleasant, didn't appear to put any energy or dynamism into the role and this affected the whole evening, inspite of excellent performances by other cast members. This was a special occasion for my husband and me and we were disappointed. - Patricia Carter 11 Feb 11
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