The Magic Flute

Revered and reviled for his hard-nosed insistence on conducting orchestral works ”as the composer himself heard them,” Britain’s Roger Norrington has launched his invasion of the operatic repertory with delight at every turn. Serious Mozartians may already own 10 Magic Flute recordings; there is, nonetheless, so much surprise, such exuberant freshness in Norrington’s approach, underlined by the youthfulness of his cast, as to shed all manner of new light on Mozart’s evergreen score. Norrington seems for once to have turned his back on this whole ”authentic performance” hang-up, bringing in some odd little tinkerings of his own. The result is far more ”authentic” than any note-by-note exhumation: a re-creation of the antic exuberance that is clearly embedded in this one-of-a-kind masterpiece. His singers are marvelous: Dawn Upshaw and Anthony Rolfe Johnson as the most lovable lovers; Andreas Schmidt as a Papageno both boisterous and wise; Cornelius Hauptmann as a Sarastro worthy of George Bernard Shaw’s description of Mozart’s arias: ”Music that could be put into the mouth of God without sacrilege.” This first in a projected series of Norrington forays into Mozart operas suggests the Mozart bicentennial celebration may be over by the calendar, but not in spirit. A

The Magic Flute
  • Music