Mozart - Die Zauberfl?te (The Magic Flute)

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Product Description

This will be the Magic Flute chosen by most people who want to live with just one. It finds Georg Solti in a relatively relaxed state of mind, with an excellent if not particularly famous cast, and an orchestra and chorus that any conductor would give his left arm (not the one that welds the baton) to work with. The singers are not particularly well-known (London seems to have set up Solti as the star of this production) but a lack of celebrity attitudes and close attention to the conductor have paid substantial dividends in this production. Sumi Jo, in a spectacular and dramatic performance of the Queen of the Night's two arias, attracts special attention, as do Uwe Heilmann (Tamino) and Michael Kraus (Papageno). --Joe McLellan

Customer Reviews:

  • Vox clamans in multitudine - I concur: yes, this is an exceptional version
    Being the 24th reviewer, this version from 1990, recorded in the wake of Salzburg performances staged by Johannes Schaaf (although with a significantly renewed cast) and greeted with universal critics' approval anyway, obviously doesn't need my added praise - yet let me add it.

    The cast is near ideal and Solti's conducting is superb. There must be something special with Hungarian conductors. Fricsay, Szell and Solti didn't need the "period instruments" movement to favor a swift and snappy approach to Mozart's allegros, which didn't preclude an ample lyricism when needed. Solti's conducting is indeed very dynamic, almost hard-pressed at times (try Papageno's first aria or the first Quintet) but it lends the music great dynamism, dramatic intensity and a forward momentum that never flags.

    As Tamino, Uwe Heilman's tenor voice isn't quite in the league of Wunderlich's with B?hm (Mozart: Die Zauberfl?te [The Magic Flute]) - he's not the kind of heroic tenor that was cast as Tamino in the fifties and sixties, but a modern Mozart tenor, with a lighter voice and a slightly nasal timbre; but within those limitations he has both the firmness and the soft nuances of the best Taminos of today. The impression is certainly less "Siegfried-heroic" than Wunderlich (witness the "mir schreckt kein Tod" - I fear not death - before the Water and Fire trials in the second Finale), but more juvenile, and the option is not invalid, I find. Ruth Ziesak sings with angelic purity of tone - one of the best Pamina's I've heard on record. Sumi Jo's Queen of the Night also has great purity of timbre and her vocalises are faultless, although she may lack a touch of muscle for the character (these aria's shouldn't sound sweet and meek after all).

    In his first aria Michael Kraus' Papageno has a vibrato that some might take exception with but I don't find it obtrusive, and for those who can hear these subtleties, his and Papagena's Viennese popular accent in the spoken text is simply irresistible. For the rest he has the juicy baritone timbre and the perky wits of the great Papagenos. The spoken text by the way is fairly complete, which the true believers will enjoy, all the more so as it is delivered (by the singers) with great theatrical flair - and as the cue points are established at the beginning of each musical number, the others can jump direct to these.

    Zednik as Monostatos is suitably nasty - no wonder, for someone who's also been one of the best Mime and Wozzeck's Hauptmann. The Three Ladies are vocally beautiful sounding, well-contrasted and fine-blending. Andreas Schmidt's Sprecher is more light-baritoned than what one is accustomed to and hence more juvenile-sounding. Granted, it goes against the score's indication that "an old Priest appears", but other than that it goes against one's habits and expectations, I can easily live with the idea of a younger Priest. Kurt Moll as Sarastro has the perfect low and deep-grained bass voice you can expect, but also a characterization that is full of kindness, never overbearing. The Two Priests and Two Armored Men are OK - but here B?hm's James King and Marti Talvela have ruined it for me: no one can match such grandiose, tear-wringing solemnity.

    The only department which I do not find particularly convincing are the three kids - they are of the customary T?lzer Knabenchor type (these three come from the Wiener S?ngerknaben), and this generation, as all the previous ones and, I am ready to take bets, all the subsequent ones, sound too solemn, too mature - and not pitch-secure. Listen to Christie if you want to make, once in your life, the experience of three kids sounding like KIDS and singing on pitch to boot (Mozart - Die Zauberfl?te / Mannion, Dessay, Blochwitz, Scharinger, Hagen, Les Art Florissants, Christie). But this, plus the minuscule reservations I might have for such and such singer, are of no great import considering the considerable assets of the set. So now I've added my review and my praise - but I doubt that anybody has read this far. Vox clamans in multitudine is just the same as in deserto (Latin Grammar not guaranteed). And if by any chance you HAVE read this review, does it means you are still not convinced after now 25 five-starred reviews? The only way for you to decide is to go ahead and buy this set, then.
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  • This recording is full of richness and wonderful sounds.
    The Great performance, beautiful crystal-clear voice of Ms. Jo as Queen of the Night is just amazing!...more info
  • Excellent recording
    While this may not be the best "Magic Flute" (and the debate on that topic is too involved to get into), anyone looking for a good digital recording can't go wrong with this version.

    Solti's conducting hasn't changed that much since his earlier recording. That one may be marginally better than this version, but it comes on three CDs compared to this later recording which takes only two.

    The best thing about this recording is Ruth Ziesak's lovely Pamina: pure, lovely tone, lighter than others (Janowitz, Te Kanawa) but convincingly girlish rather than matronly. One of the best. Kurt Moll is once again an excellent Sarastro, though maybe lacking the final degree of authority found in his earlier recordings. Kraus as Papageno sounds a bit fluttery at times, but he projects the character well.

    Uwe Heilman's Tamino is not as bad as some have said, but he certainly is no Wunderlich (who is?). However, he sings with commitment and a sure sense of style. While I prefer a dramatic coloratura in the Queen's music (a la Studer, Deutekom, or best of all, Edda Moser), Sumi Jo has the pyrotechnical accomplishment to make her one of the finest Queens on rcord. The voice is round and bell-like, never shrill, and the high staccati notes glitter. However, she is even better on the Arnold Oestman recording.

    The rest of the cast is fine, with special mention going to Heinz Zednik's oily, sycophantic Monostatos. Also worthy of note are the three boys, who sing gorgeously, better than any other recording which uses treble voices in the parts. A fine version of "Flute" for the first-time listener or to add alongside other recordings....more info

  • Some nice tings, but not the Tamino and Papageno
    The naysayers have been drowned out in the chorus of praise for Solti's remake of Die Zaubrflote from Vienna, but I'm afraid they're right. (Amazon's official reviewers have uttered some whippers over the years, but few beat the one attached to this recording: "This will be the Magic Flute chosen by most people who want to live with just one." Can you say Otto Klemperer?)

    the woeful casting is what sinks this set. Uew Heilmann's strangulated tenor is barely tolerable as Tamino, and Michael Kraus is hardly better as Papageno. These two sound like minor league layers who accidentally stumbled into the majors. Sumi Jo was a real find for the Queen of the Night, singing with expression and impeccable technique (but also with a fast beat in her voice, if that bothers you). I am also a fan of Ruth Ziesek, who is touching as Pamina but at times, to my puzzlement, a bit insecure technically.

    As for Solti, he had vast experience as an opera conductor, and some admire his Mozart. It's clean, direct, and unmannered, but there's nary a smile. The most enjoyment I got was from the Vienna Phil., always a joy in Mozart. All in all, this set falls into the middle or the pack, assuming you can accept two male leads I never wish to hear again. ...more info
  • A Beautiful Performance
    I have seen Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) on several occasions and this recording by Sir Georg Solti has always brought back those wonderful performances. With the Mozart 250th birthday this January Gramophone magazine selected the best recordings of the opera and this Solti version was among the top choices. Sir Georg had a long association with the opera that dated back to the late 1930s when he was an assistant conductor under Toscanini. Overall, the recording has a feeling of excitement that is apparent from the overture to the concluding chorus of the final act. The dialogue is dramatically spoken and conveys a real performance with comic moments (particularly those with Papageno) coming off nicely. The Overture is beautifully played with perfect phrasing from the Vienna Philharmonic.

    The casting of the parts is excellent with Uwe Heilmann as Tamino and Ruth Ziesak as Pamina, who provides a full characterization of her role down to the desperation she feels when faced with Tamino's silence. Michael Kraus makes a great Papageno but certainly does not eclipse Hermann Prey from Solti's 1969 recording of the opera. He is wonderfully comic and sings Ein Maddchen oder Weibchen with apparent joy. I was fortunate to see Sumi Jo sing the Queen of the Night and I recall the praise reviewers gave her performance. Ms. Jo gives a fabulous performance here from her first aria O, zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn! to the well-known coloratura favorite Der Holle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen. Kurt Moll is a commanding Sarastro and Heinz Zednick is a fine Monstantos who particularly shines during his scene with Pamina.

    Sir Georg adopts perfect tempi and the Vienna Philharmonic respond to him with beautiful playing. His deep affection for this opera shows through the entire recording and is one that should not be missed.

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  • Buy the Salzburg Festival video instead...
    What I love this CD for is Ruth Ziesak's wonderful, very sensitive Pamina and the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. As a fan of B?hm's recording of the Magic Flute with a simply unbeatable Fritz Wunderlich as Tamino, I find Heilmann's performance particularly unsatisfactory; also Jo's Queen of the Night and the Papageno on this disc do not really convince me! What I would warmly recommend instead is the video of the Salzburg Festival performance of Die Zauberfl?te from the early nineties with Anton Scharinger (as a brilliant Papageno!) plus Deon van der Walt and Ruth Ziesak (as an absolutely lovable young couple) - which is also accompanied by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Sir Georg Solti....more info
  • superb queen of the night
    IMHO, "Der Hoelle Rache" is the most memorable of the arias in this opera, and Sumi Jo does a brilliant job with it. Compare the online clip of it vs other recordings on amazon. It's a shame she no longer sings the role, to avoid straining her vocal cords....more info


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