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The richness of the score and splendour of this cast makes selection of excerpts unusually difficult. But why not start with the overture, in which Colin Davis and the Royal Opera Orchestra revel in Mozart's counterpoint but do not follow contemporary fashion and drive it too hard? Characters come and go in the background, we glimpse a carefully bowed violin part, and Davis is seen sweeping us triumphantly along. He clearly delights in this music as wholeheartedly as he did in the days, now long ago, when he conducted the Chelsea Opera Group and dubbed me the discreetest cellist west of Notting Hill Gate.

A scene from Die Zauberflöte. © Opus Arte
A scene from Die Zauberflöte. © Opus Arte

The Papageno of Simon Keenlyside really steals this particular show, managing to be both comic and human. We see him first with an assortment of captured birds, all looking in the pink and scornful of any lurking flu. And from the outset he is as musical as can be, both with his set of pipes and enchanting sense of line.

Watch and listen -- Diana Damrau as The Queen of Night
© 2003 BBC Worldwide / 2007 Opus Arte

As the Queen of Night, his employer, Diana Damrau is a very different kettle of fish, if she will pardon the expression. The social services, in the form of Sarastro and his staff, have bereft her of her daughter Pamina, and for the moment she is all plaintive mother. But how deceptive.

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Copyright © 10 April 2008 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt


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