At the top of the pile
Samuel Stephens | TN, USA | 10/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is recording contains out-of-this-world performances by all the cast, but I know that the greatest measurement used in assessing recordings is "does it contain a good Queen of the Night?" And the answer that I give is: Lucia Popp was made by God spefically to sing the role. But first, let's go through some general points.
1) There are no recicatives, and if you can't live without them, then I can't help you. And personally, it does seem like the opera would flow better with them. But this is a classic recording not to be missed, and the great singing more than makes up for it.
2) Speaking of the great singing, there's not a single weak link. Walter Berry as Papageno is a breathy-singing blunderer. In other words, his performance translates to CD with comic warmth. Overwrought for some people's tastes, perhaps. The Tamino and Tamina of Nicolai Gedda and Gandula Janowitz are just fine; smooth, lyrical, and youthful. Gottlieb Frick's Sarastro is very deep and darly colored, Gerhard Unger's Monostatos is sneaky-voiced (though I sometimes mistake it for Gedda's voice, when I'm not paying attention), and the three ladies are in splendid voice, as of course they would be when sung by Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig, and Marga Hoffgen. The "three youths" are voiced by Agnes Giebel, Anna Reynolds, and Josephine Veasey--the future Dido in Sir Colin Davis' "Les Troyens."
Last but not least, Lucia Popp's Queen of the Night. Quite simply put, she flawlessly hits every note Mozart wrote. I've heard a great many versions of this area. Some are adequate, sung prettily enough but lacking any of the frightening power we should associate with the Queen of the Night. Other versions are dreadful, sung shriekingly but never hitting any of the high notes.
3) Klemperer's conducting is...well, Klemperer-ish. I really don't understand the complaints about slowness. Under Klemp, there's no loss of momentum. Indeed, in the overture, the climax is that much more powerful because of the deliberate pace. And the Philharmonia Orchestra is in command of the score, and sounds wonderful.
In short, if you want a healthy-toned, meaty, old-fashioned version of Die Zauberflote, this is where you have to go. And I swear, you will never hear a better Queen of the Night."
Recommendable only for the female voices
C. G. Kiem | Cochin, Indien | 05/25/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Never have the parts of Pamina and Queen of the Night been sung more perfectly and beautifully than by Gundula Janowitz and Lucia Popp on this recording. Their performances alone make it worth purchasing this CD set. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig and Marga Höffgen as the three ladies are also pure joy to listen to. But the male voices are - I am sad to say - just good average. Here, the still unsurpassed standard is the Böhm recording (also from the early 1960s) with Fritz Wunderlich as Tamino, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Papageno and Franz Crass as Sarastro. You need both Böhm and Klemperer to get an idea of the full artistic potential of this opera."