The Magic Flute Ends Season in Valencia

SpainSpain  W.A.Mozart: Die Zauberflöte, Orchestra Comunitat Valenciana, Chorus Generalitat Valenciana, Ottavio Dantone (conductor), Valencia Palau de les Arts, 13.4.2013 (JMI)

Production from Parma’s Teatro Regio.

Tamino: Daniel Johansson
Pamina: Grazia Doronzio
Papageno: Thomas Tatzl
Queen of the Night: Mandy Fredrich
Sarastro: In-Sung Sim
Monostatos: Loïc Felix
Speaker: Nathan Berg
Papagena: Helen Kearns
Three Ladies: Jinkyung Park, Maria Kosenkova, Romina Tomasoni
Three Boys: Tölzer Knabenchor
Priests and Armed Men: Mario Cerdá, Robert Wörle, Johannes Schmidt

Costumes: Romeo Gigli
Lighting: Simon Corder
Choreography: Duncan Macfarland

With these performances of The Magic Flute the Palau de Les Arts closes its season, and with an imaginative stage production, a rather cold musical reading, and a cast of young singers, the results were mixed.

The stage production bears the signature of Stephen Medcalf, comes from the Teatro Regio in Parma, and is one of the last of his works premiered in the Italian city some seven years ago.

During the overture six extras are seen on the bare stage, placing 6 props at the front, viz a cane for the old Papagena, a flute for Tamino, a dagger for Pamina, a fake portrait for Tamino, a carillon for Papageno and an apple for the bird catcher. These props play an important role in the opera as they are the only stage elements that will be used in the entire production, and this minimalism is reflected in the set which is simply a bare stage. Extras and dancers fill the empty stage with imaginative movements, whereby the dancers become the snake, the tree where Papageno intends to end his life, and provide the background against which Tamino and Pamina undertake their trials – including becoming the temple doors. The production takes place in a nocturnal atmostphere and the lighting is remarkable.

Stephen Medcalf places the emphasis on the tale rather than the Masonic symbolism and the stage direction is attractive in its simplicity. The worlds of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night are perfectly delineated with extras surrounding their leaders at all times. The choreography seemed to me to be a little lacking, since there are only six dancers for the fire and water trial and this seems a little lacking. This is all in marked contrast to productions which rely on rich sets, but it works well despite this.

Ottavio Dantone is a maestro with long experience, whose usual field is baroque music in which he has given some remarkable performances, while being less successful with composers like Rossini or Donizetti – or even Mozart, judging by what we have seen at Valencia. Mr Dantone’s reading was mostly correct, I would even say flawless as far as control goes, but he fell short of inspiration and passion. His performance was rather academic and cold. With more passion on the podium this opera would have gained much. There was a good performace, as usual, from the orchestra, but it was not as brilliant as on other occasions.

The cast was made up of young singers, many of them virtually unknown. To my taste the best performances came from Pamina and Sarastro.

Daniel Johansson was a Tamino who didn’t fly too high. The voice is attractive, but his way of presenting it is too pompous and he is somewhat monotonous in his singing. Tamino’s aria in the first act went virtually unnoticed as a result.

Grazia Doronzio made a remarkable Pamina in vocal terms. Her voice was the best of the whole the cast, and she sang her second act aria with gusto. I had the chance to see this soprano in a singing contest seven years ago when she was a singer in the making, but with her voice already good. Today she is an accomplished soprano with a high quality instrument which she handles well.

Austrian baritone Thomas Tatzl was a rather modest Papageno. His voice seemed too light for the character and although he did everything well, nothing stood out.

Korean bass In-Sung Sim was a remarkable Sarastro. His voice is attractive, not too big in size but quite homogeneous along the tessitura and he lent solemnity to the character. He left a very positive impression.

German soprano Mandy Fredrich is a consistently good Queen of the Night. The voice is well suited to the character, very agile, and rather tight at the top, as was evident in the first of her arias.

If Sir Simon Rattle wanted three star singers as the Three Ladies (Annick Massis, Magdalena Kozena and Natalie Stutzmann), the Palau de les Arts has gone the opposite way and has presented three young singers. The important thing is that they were good. They were Jinkyung Park, Maria Kosenkova and Romina Tomasoni.

As usual, the Three Boys won the applause of the audience. This time they deserved it since they were excellent – as is always the way with the soloists of the Tölzer Knabenchor.

Monostatos was good as played by Loïc Felis, Helen Kearns was a well suited Papagena, Nathan Berg was a rather modest Sprecher, but the Priests and Armed Men left something to be desired.

The Palau de les Arts was completely sold out, with many youngsters in the audience and people left the theatre with big smiles.

Although this marks the end of the regular season, in June there will be the Mediterranean Festival, which this year appears thinner than usual, although it has an attractive Verdi’s Otello, with the presence of Aleksandar Antonenko, Maria Agresta and Carlos Alvarez.

José M. Irurzun