Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte is a challenge to any stage director – this is not an opera for children, but it certainly is a fairytale, the depths of which should rather be hinted at than fully explored. Günter Krämer’s 1991 staging for the Deutsche Oper tries to update things a bit, by having Monostatos talking pocket psychology while Pamina rests her head on his shoulder or the three ladies threatening Papageno with pistol guns. Some of the “creative” touches have their charm, especially the opening scene with the dragon operated by puppeteers who take part in the action, but some elements in the original plot are replaced by basically nothing and a couple of episodes are ultimately uneventful, such as the Queen of the Night’s arias.
To make things even more uneventful, conductor Matthias Foremny offered a lazy approach to the score, lacking forward-movement, energy and purpose. Notes followed each other without any spirit behind them as if the idea were to play safe. I just wonder how safe one has to be with a world-class orchestra and a reliable cast. I’ve chosen the word “reliable”, because the performances this evening rarely went beyond that.
Heidi Stober, for example, has a pleasant creamy voice, but her phrasing is too often inert. Pamina is a gift-from-Heaven of a role for a lyric soprano – it offers every imaginable possible opportunities for a singer to show her sense of style and to use her expressive tools, but Ms. Stober let so many of them pass by that in the end no-one really cared about her performance. Unfortunately, Hulkar Sabirova was not in her best voice – she struggled a bit with high notes and only achieved Der Hölle Rache out of sheer technique. She has a rich voice and impressively clear divisions – I reckon she must be a very exciting Queen of the Night in a good day. Yosep Kang is a healthy-voiced and stylish Tamino, but tonal variety is not really within his possibilities. What has happened to Mozart tenors who could colour a Mozartian phrasing with true affection and genuine elegance? Reinhard Hagen’s noble-toned Sarastro is always an effective piece of casting, but the results were rather cold if one has in mind René Pape’s last Sarastros in the Lindenoper. Simon Pauly’s Papageno falls in a different slot – that was a truly endearing performance, beautifully sung, stylishly phrased and intelligently handled, also in the acting department. Last but not least, the three boys from the Knabenchor der Chorakademie Dortmund were unusually musical and pleasant-voiced.