Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Die Zauberflöte @ Royal Opera, London

Royal Opera House

Royal Opera House (Photo: Luke Hayes/Royal Opera House)

Revisiting this Flute to catch the alternate cast was a revelation. This time round the balance of the work was redressed as it had a stunning Tamino at its heart. I seem to have enjoyed the first night of the Royal Opera’s revival of David McVicar’s Die Zauberflöte more than most, so therefore couldn’t resist a second visit to see what difference a completely new set of principals would make.

The results were astonishing. First time round Simon Keenlyside‘s exemplary Papageno ruled the roost partly due to the fact that the Tamino and Pamina were dramatically inert and in the case of the former, vocally not up to the challenge.

This time round Pavol Breslik was an astonishingly assured, thrillingly-voiced Tamino and his handsome stage presence matched a tenor voice that filled the house with a flood of glorious tone all night. He is a major find and I hope he returns soon, as Mozart-tenors of this stature don’t grow on trees.

He was ably partnered by Kate Royal as Pamina. Although she has sung the role for Glyndebourne, this was her first major assignment at the Royal Opera, and despite a couple of moments of unsure vocalism (first night nerves?) she was a more forthright presence than her predecessor. She sang her fiendishly difficult Act II aria with as much grace and poise as Genia Khmeier but overall made a far more favourable impression. With these two roles now cast from strength, our focus was on these two characters, as it should be.

But that’s not to say the other cast changes were detrimental far from it. Keenlyside’s Papageno is a hard act to follow, but Christopher Maltman stamped his own identity on the role and his singing throughout the evening was faultless indeed he sounded vocally more virile than his predecessor, whilst his spoken dialogue was totally idiomatic. A great performance.

Anna-Kristiina Kaappola would have been a super Queen of the Night if the sensational Erika Miklosa’s coloratura wasn’t still ringing in my ears from Cast A, and whilst Hans-Peter Koenig had all Sarastro’s low notes well within his range, his overall performance could have done with more light and shade.

Roland Böer’s conducting was as outstanding as before, and he coaxed stylish playing from the orchestra. Whilst the ideal performance would have been a ‘bit of A’ and ‘a pinch of B’, overall this was a far more satisfying performance than the first night.

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