If you miss the 80’s and its glitter and glamour, then Julie Taymor’s Zauberflöte is your staging. Sometimes one might think this has been originally staged in a nightclub – a bunch of unusual people surrounded by neon lighting. The rest of the concept has to do with keeping singers busy and when this is impossible, getting some dolls on stage to provide the fun. It must be distracting for the cast – especially when conductor Scott Bergeson’s mechanical rendition of the score often left singers (and the chorus) behind the beat.
Although Isabel Bayrakdarian’s creaminess of tone and richness of middle register invite immediate fondness, it is impossible not to notice the poor discipline – she is a bit free with pitch and rhythm and her upper notes require some preparation. It is a pity, since she is is exceptionally well-equipped for this repertoire and could have been a remarkable Pamina. I cannot say the same of the Queen of the Night. Erika Miklosa’s tone is quite unsubstantial and – in the fast tempi provided by the conductor – her runs were quite smeared. That said, she really manages her high staccato notes with impressive accuracy.
Maybe because there are not many outstanding Mozart lyric tenors around these days (the good ones generally end singing La Traviata or Rigoletto), I have noticed a growing tendency towards casting the part with jugendlich dramatisch tenors. Considering the limitation in mellowness and tone-colouring involved in this option, Jonas Kaufmann acquited himself very well – he can hold a clean line and showed some flexibility. As for Nathan Gunn, it would be mean to concentrate in the inbuilt roughness of his vocal production. He has the necessary charm and buoyance for Papapgeno. In the part of Sarastro, Stephen Milling proved to be a functional choice – he is a true bass, but his technique is irregular and the results were simply unenlightening. Both Volker Vogel and Eike Wim Schulte were excellent as Monostatos and the Speaker and trio of ladies, quite good.