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This marked a watershed -- it served as the influential precursor for future children's Mozart adaptations and during the generation that followed youngsters enjoyed opera through books, magazines, recordings, reduced instrumentations (for infants) and live productions devised with families in mind. This DVD captures the enthralling atmosphere at that first ever staging of The Magic Flute for Children.

It's well to note that this miracle among operas has fared especially well on DVD. Most recently (2007) Metropolitan Opera made their innovative 110 minute Zauberflöte available to the Fort Worth (Texas) Bass Performance Hall Children's Education Program. Their wildly successful video production boasts extraordinary sets, costumes, flying birds, dancing bears and dazzling puppetry by iconoclastic designer Julie Taymor whose talents ensured The Lion King was such a resounding international hit

The conductor -- none other than James Levine -- presides over a noteworthy cast. New York favourite Ying Huang plays Princess Pamina, Erika Miklósa the Queen of the Night, and Nathan Gunn, Papageno, the birdcatcher. For this Fort Worth/Dallas video presentation The Met morphed their German production with English singing plus Spanish and English subtitles (Text by J D McClatchy).

Many opera lovers uphold Ingmar Bergman's (1975) production as a cinematic 'sine qua non' among Magic Flute (s) -- filmed offstage at Drottningholm.

Yet the pick of today's DVD bunch is arguably a 'live' 21st century production taped digitally in January 2003 at Covent Garden -- staged by David McVicar, designed by John Macfarlane; with the Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Sir Colin Davis. For this occasion the cast included Dorothea Röschmann (Pamina), Diana Damrau (Queen of the Night), Will Hartmann (Tamino), Simon Keenlyside (Papageno) and Ailish Tynan (Papagena).

The three soloists from the Tölzer Knabenchor. Screenshot © 1982 ORF
The three soloists from the Tölzer Knabenchor. Screenshot © 1982 ORF

Beside the Davis/Covent Garden offering a remaining worthwhile DVD alternative recaptures the 1971 production by Hamburg Opera. The Philharmonic State Orchestra was conducted by Horst Stein with Peter Ustinov directing. Back then Hamburg Opera was under the artistic direction of Rolf Liebermann. The production was transferred to a TV studio and filmed, using original sets and costumes. Its stellar cast featured Nicolai Gedda, Cristina Deutekom, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Edith Mathis and Hans Sotin.

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Copyright © 25 December 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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