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Cat. No. CHAN 3121(2) Price: £18 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 3121 - Mozart: The Magic Flute
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Available From: 07 March 2005
You can take the narrative of The Magic Flute at any number of levels. At its simplest it tells the story of a journey from darkness to light. It starts at night, the Queen’s realm, and ends in blazing sunlight, Sarastro’s. At its most complicated, it is well known to be an allegory based on the rituals of Freemasonry.

Mozart broke the operatic mould with The Magic Flute. It was not written for the Viennese Court, as was his previous German opera, The Abduction from the Seraglio. It was not written for a metropolitan opera audience who pretended to understand Italian, but for the Theater auf der Wieden, a rackety old theatre in the suburbs built of wood and only temporary - it has long since vanished. The actor-manager Emanuel Schikaneder, whose troupe had toured widely through German-speaking lands, had taken a lease on the theatre, and wanted to make some money with a bit of popular entertainment, an apparently ramshackle fairy-tale of the kind then very popular in Vienna. There was opportunities for spectacular stage effects, with much flying on wires and use of trapdoors. A pantomime at the Hackney Empire might be a useful analogy.

Shickaneder himself wrote the libretto, almost certainly from members of his company. The libretto, like its source, Liebeskind’s Lulu oder Die Zauberflöte, was set in Egypt - a magical land with serpents, handsome princes and demonic queens. Mozart transcended the fairy-tale format, and you can sense him relishing the freedom that both the format and writing for a popular, operatically uncommitted audience gave him. He was not compelled to fulfil any expectations, no show-off arias, no compulsion to follow conventional form. He could do whatever he wanted, and he did, which is one reason why the opera remains so fresh.

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Reviews

Indeed, this is on of the most desirable sets in Chandos’ admirable series, worthy to stand comparison with some of the classic accounts in the original German… A real winner
Opera ‘Disc of the month’

Sir Charles Mackerras conducts this enchanting performance with a superb cast headed by Barry Banks and Rebecca Evans, with Simon Keenlyside’s Papageno and John Tomlinson’s Sarastro.
Sunday Telegraph ‘100 Classical Albums you must hear’

Mackerras… is perhaps the world’s wisest and most inquiring Mozartian, and here he gets playing of magical transparency from the LPO… bringing a sense of wonder to the music now rarely experienced in the theatre.
The Sunday Times ‘Classical CD of the Week’

Barry Banks marries ease, expressivity and eloquence to notable effect…
Gramophone on CHAN 3112 (Barry Banks)

The lovely, warm soprano of Rebecca Evans shines as Susanna… she captures the right feeling of sensuality of a woman awaiting her lover on her wedding night…
Classic FM Magazine ‘Disc of the Month’ on CHAN 3113(3) (The Marriage of Figaro)

This may be the finest release yet in Chandos’ Opera in English series: an opera that is singularly appropriate for English-language performance in a recording that is worthy of comparison with most of its German-language predecessors. I enjoyed this ‘Flute’ enormously, in part because of Jeremy Sams’s delightful, witty translation and in part because this is a first-rate performance in almost every way.
Fanfare (USA)

Mackerras has long been one of the most discerning of Mozartians. As ever, he chooses lively but never inflexible tempos, encourages light, period style articulation, and never misses a trick with Mozart’s miraculous woodwind colouring. Linguistic purists will turn up their noses. Others will find this ‘Magic Flute’ as magical as any in the catalogue, irrespective of language.
The Telegraph

CD of the Week
The Guardian

The performance is very good, with some lively singing, both from the soloists and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, excellent orchestral playing from the LPO, and above all that sure sense both of overall direction and of an appreciative ear for detail that characterises Sir Charles Mackerras’s conducting (not least in his feeling for appoggiaturas and light ornamentation).
International Record Review

Rebecca Evanss Ilia is all one expects from this lovely soprano, the voice pure, intonation secure and musicianship impeccable…
The Sunday Telegraph on CHAN 3103(2) (Idomeneo)

This set is the best argument I have heard in ages for the Royal Opera to perform Mozart’s great vernacular Singspiel in English. Rebecca Evans (Pamina) and Simon Keenlyside (Papageno), sang in Covent Garden’s recent revival, as did John Graham-Hall (Monostatos), and they are even better here in their own language, particularly in Jeremy Sams’s witty dialogue. Mackerras, who conducted, is perhaps the world’s wisest and most inquiring Mozartian, and here he gets playing of magical transparency from the LPO, highlighting the wind solos and bringing a sense of wonder to the music now rarely experienced in the theatre.
Sunay Times

No work seems to me to make better sense in the vernacular than Mozart’s concluding masterpiece… All in all, anyone wanting the work in English need no hesitate to acquire this set, the first-ever version in the vernacular on CD.
Gramophone 'Editor's Choice'

Chandos has assembled a superb cast. It is wonderful to have Simon Keenlyside’s incomparable Papageno preserved on disc and clever to bring along Lesley Garrett as a delectable Papagena. Barry banks and Rebecca Evans are ideally matched as Tamino and Pamina, both singing superbly. Elizabeth Vidal is a Queen of the Night who retains her character and is not just a coloratura soprano. Sarastro’s arias are sung with immense authority and richness of tone by John Tomlinson. With Majella Cullagh, Sarah Fox and Diana Montague as an especially well contrasted Three Ladies, John Graham-Hall as Monostatos and Chrisopther Purves as the Speaker (and in two other roles), one could not hope for a finer English-singing cast.
The Sunday Telegraph

 

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