~ Author: Oberon
Monday December 4th, 2017 - I've enjoyed the Metropolitan Opera's "holiday" version of THE MAGIC FLUTE in the past, but tonight I realized while watching it that I really need to go back to the full German ZAUBERFLOETE: too much great music is shorn from the score for the English-language production.
The house was substantially full, and of course there were lots of children among the audience. The ones seated near us were actually pretty attentive - possibly spellbound - but the adults accompanying them continuously pointed things out and asked their kid's reaction to this or that. This has become another reason to revert to the auf Deutsch setting.
The Julie Taymor production is still entertaining, though this cast could have used a couple more staging rehearsals. This was also true of the performance musically: conductor Evan Rogister (replacing the originally-announced Edo de Waart) did not always seem completely in control, and there was magic missing in the performance despite some fine singing. A late seating - supposedly forbidden at The Met for decades - was really distracting, and someone was taking flash photos during the opera's action.
Charles Castronovo (above) was an excellent Tamino both vocally and visually. His voice is more muscular that we are accustomed to hearing in this music; this gave the character a heroic quality. The tenor's singing made me regret all the more that the sublime Portrait Aria is pruned down to a few phrases in this setting. Mr. Castronovo was particularly impressive in the scene outside the temple, his upper notes blooming.
As Pamina, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller finished Pamina's aria with lovely softness and light in her voice. Elsewhere, she was uneven, with the upper range turning harsh when she applied increases of volume. Nathan Gunn's shtick as Papageno is getting a bit stale: he still sings the music perfectly well, but his diction in dialogue was not always comprehensible and his girlish shrieks whenever anything disturbed or scared the bird-catcher were annoying.
There was a truly amusing and well-sung Monastatos from Greg Fedderly, and a perky Papagena from Ashley Emerson. Alfred Walker brought dignity and a warm, expressive voice to the role of The Speaker. Having two such fine singers as Richard Cox and Richard Bernstein cast as The Guards made me lament that their "chorale" is among the cut numbers in this version. Tamara Mumford's 3rd Lady made her mark vocally, but the singing of the Three Boys left a lot to be desired.
At the opposite extremes of range, Kathryn Lewek as the Queen of the Night and Tobias Kehrer as Sarastro excelled.
Ms. Lewek (above) has a voice with a nice ping to it. She showed off some imaginatively subtle phrases in her first aria, and sustained a remarkable high-F near the finish - a note most sopranos simply touch on. In her great Vengeance Aria, the soprano let fly with the coloratura and the sparkling top Fs to fine effect, but it was in her powerfully sustained cries of "Swear! Swear!! Swear to avenge me!" that Ms. Lewek scored her knockout punches; the crowd went crazy following this vocal display.
German basso Tobias Kehrer (above) has a somewhat unusual voice for the music of Sarastro: it has a baritonal quality which was extremely attractive in the melody of "O Isis and Osiris". But then, when the low-F came, it was truly there - very rotund and steady - making a great impression. The second aria was really affectingly sung and warmly phrased. Mr. Kehrer's diction was far and away the clearest in the cast, and his final pronouncement as the opera drew to a close was beautifully done. Let's have him back in other roles, and soon.