Compositions: Die Zauberflöte
Performers: Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Catalogue Number: DG 4836400 (2CD)
Seven years and six recordings later, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s project to record all of Mozart’s mature operas for Deutsche Grammophon is approaching its end. With the release of this new Die Zauberflöte only Idomeneo remains to complete a set which has been consistent in its inconsistencies. The combination of Nézet-Séguin himself, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and a starry roster of soloists has promised much across the series, but each opera has proved less than the sum of its expensive parts.
Zauberflöte is no exception. Nézet-Séguin’s energised, lightfooted approach is a good fit for the singspiel, and there’s a prioritising of drama and pace above strict authenticity. You only have to look at some of the more unusual casting choices – Klaus Florian Vogt’s self-consciously blanched and smoothed-out Tamino and Rolando Villazón’s tenor-turned-baritone Papageno chief among them – to see that.
Best are Christiane Karg’s sweet-voiced Pamina and Franz-Josef Selig’s molasses-rich Sarastro, with Albina Shagimuratova’s Queen of the Night dazzling at the top, if a little more hit-and-miss lower down. But as ever with this series, each recorded live at the Baden-Baden summer festival, there’s a lack of cohesion. Villazón offers a broadly comic, character-driven account that feels at odds with Vogt and Karg’s formality. What by all accounts worked well enough on stage doesn’t quite translate to disc.