An Imaginative and Delightful Magic Flute in Madrid

SpainSpain Mozart, Die Zauberflöte: Teatro Real Orchestra and Chorus, Ivor Bolton (conductor), Teatro Real, Madrid, 25 & 26.1.2016. (JMI)

Teatro Real’s Die Zauberflöte (c) Javier del Real

Mozart, Die Zauberflöte

Production: Komische Oper Berlin

Direction: Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky
Sets and Costumes: Esther Bialas
Lighting: Diego Leetz
Images: Paul Barritt


Tamino: Joel Prieto/Norman Reinhardt
Pamina: Sophie Bevan/Silvia Schwartz
Sarastro/Sprecher: Christof Fischesser/Rafal Siwek
Queen of the Night: Ana Durlovski/Kathryn Lewek
Papageno: Joan Martín-Royo/Gabriel Bermúdez
Monostatos: Mikeldi Atxalandabaso
Papagena: Ruth Rosique
Three Ladies: Elena Copons, Gemma Coma-Alabert, Nadine Weissmann
Three Boys: Pequeños Cantores de la ORCAM
Armed Men: Airam Hernández, David Sánchez

This acclaimed production by Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky had its premiere at the Komische Oper Berlin in 2012. Since then it has been touring almost constantly, to Los Angeles, Minnesota, Mannheim, Dusseldorf and Duisburg, and it was featured at the last Edinburgh Festival. It’s fair to say that the visits to all these cities (some several times) have been major successes, and that has now been the case in Madrid as well. 

The imaginative staging presents the opera as a silent movie, and the only sound is the singing; dialogues are replaced by written summaries projected on a screen. The sets are basically nonexistent. There is a plain wooden curtain located at the front of the stage where images are projected, and the singers are placed on pedestals at different heights. As for costumes, Papageno is a re-creation of Buster Keaton, and Monostatos of Nosferatu. 

It’s a real tribute to silent films with constant projections of original cartoons complementing the performance of the singers; or rather, I should say, the singers complement and accompany the bombardment of images. These pictures are a terrific find, and some are truly spectacular, particularly the entrance of Monostatos pulling  ̶  or rather, being pulled by  ̶  his dogs.

Leading the orchestra was Ivor Bolton, currently music director of Teatro Real and a consummate specialist in classicism, as he has shown many times. He was much more in his element here than with other operas he has conducted in this house, and his reading was excellent. He drew a great sound from the orchestra, and the chorus was superb. 

Joel Prieto was Tamino in the first cast, with an attractive voice though somewhat light for the character. His singing line was consistent, and this was probably the best performance I have seen from him. Norman Reinhardt was well-suited in the second cast, although he doesn’t have a particularly bright sound. 

Sophie Bevan was a convincing Pamina. Her voice is appealing, and she did really well. Silvia Schwartz was rather modest in the second cast. She is too light for my taste, and there were also some shrill sounds in her high notes. 

Joan Martin-Royo was an excellent Papageno (or Buster Keaton). He has always been a superb performer, but his voice has not always been projected sufficiently. Recently, he has improved markedly in this respect, and that was confirmed here. Gabriel Bermudez was also good in the second cast. 

Ana Durlovski was a suitable Queen of the Night. Her voice is somewhat small in size, which in this production goes almost unnoticed, but she is a fine singer and has the agilities. It’s a pity that her voice gets much narrower in the higher notes. Soprano Kathryn Lewek was a disappointing Queen of the Night, with strident sounds. 

Christof Fischesser offered nobility as Sarastro, which was much appreciated in contrast to the rough sound of Rafal Siwek in the second cast.

Mikeldi Atxalandabaso in the part of Monostatos was excellent both as singer and actor. Ruth Rosique was a shrill Papagena. 

José M. Irurzun

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