1990, Zauberflöte, Glyndebourne
Neil Jenkins, Amanda Roocroft and Gerald Finley
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Librettist: Emanuel Schikaneder
Venue and Dates: Glyndebourne
9, 11, 15, 17 October 1990
Then on tour:
Theatre Royal, Glasgow – 24, 27 October 1990
Apollo Theatre, Oxford – 30 October, 1 November 1990
Palace Theatre, Manchester – 6, 8 November 1990
Hippodrome, Birmingham – 13, 15 November 1990
Mayflower, Southampton – 20, 22 November 1990
Theatre Royal, Plymouth – 27, 29 November 1990
Conductor: Ivor Bolton
Original Producer: Peter Sellars
Set Designer: Adrianne Lobel
Costume Designer: Duna Ramicova
Lighting Designer: Paul Hastie
Revival Producer: Stephen Medcalf
Tamino: Barry Banks
1st Lady: Sarah Pring
2nd Lady: Denise Hector
3rd Lady: Alison Hudson
Papageno: Gerald Finley
Queen Of Night: Eileen Hulse
Monostatos: Neil Jenkins
Pamina: Amanda Roocroft
1st Boy/Spirit: Samuel Woodward (9, 15, 24, 30 Oct, 6, 13, 20, 27 Nov) / Timothy
Simmons (11, 17, 27 Oct, 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 Nov)
2nd Boy/Spirit: Mark O’Halleron (9, 15, 24, 30 Oct, 6, 13, 20, 27 Nov) / Paul
Spindler (11, 17, 27 Oct, 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 Nov)
3rd Boy/Spirit: Ross Pannell (9, 15, 24, 30 Oct, 6, 13, 20, 27 Nov) / Alistair Smith
(11, 17, 27 Oct, 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 Nov)
Speaker (Act I): Alastair Miles / Andrew Slater (17, 30 Oct, 1 Nov)
Sarastro: Jose Garcia
Papagena: Susannah Waters
Orchestra: Glyndebourne Touring Opera Orchestra
What the critics say
Ronald Crichton, Opera, December 1990
Die Zauberflöte. Glyndebourne Touring Opera at Glyndebourne, October 9
Basking in notoriety, the Sellars Zauberflöte returned for the Autumn GTO tour. Stephen Medcalf was now named as director, Ivor Bolton conducted an almost entirely new cast. The reception was friendly. Not having seen the Summer production, and unable to tell how much difference the changes made, I found the evening visually interesting, but seldom engaging with or illuminating Mozart’s music. Since the spoken dialogue was once again left out and the singing text (with an Anglophone cast, why German?) too often mumbled, there wasn’t much connection with Schikaneder either. The ‘descriptive titles’ in flashing red on a ribbon across the top of the lower stage only served to underline what was missing.
With the orchestral playing (of which more later) the scenery by Adrianne Lobel was the most enjoyable feature. The succession of luridly coloured West Coast motorway scenes (sunsets a speciality) of the travel brochure type that make you feel ‘that’s all right – now I needn’t go there’ conceals allusions to Baroque theatre quick changing cloths and wings, and to the Elizabethan playhouse with upper and lower stage topsy-turvy – the undercroft serving both the priests and the slave-world of Monostatos. Trouble comes with the second act-increasing awareness of tedium in the later stages of Zauberflöte is part of the ageing process, like realising one is older than the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Here surely Schikaneder pulled out every spectacular stop to keep the humbler audience amused during the trials and the quest for enlightenment. It may be because Sellars and his designer had showered the audience with scene changes (faultlessly handled by the stage staff) before the interval that there seemed too few afterwards. One can’t show much of a spiritual or physical quest in the same part of the same cellar. Of course the tedium is of a superior, elevated and improving kind-one finds something like it in the more austere parts of Gluck’s Alceste. In the popular theatre high-mindedness needs careful dosing. Perhaps Mozart and Schikaneder didn’t get the balance quite right. A breather between the trials and the second attempted suicide might have helped.
In both parts the settings affect the sound. Side wings and cloths hung quite far down-stage box in the voices. The whey-faced Pamina (Amanda Roocroft), the wan looking Tamino (Barry Banks), and to a lesser extent the Three Ladies and the Boys, sounded shallow- and tight-voiced. Some good singing, notably from the tenor, suffered accordingly. Only Alastair Miles as the Speaker (a member of the Summer cast), and the curiously gravelly Sarastro of Jose Garcia came over at strength. The coolly debonair Papageno of Gerald Finley succeeded not by strength but by musicianship and good projection. The absence of stereotype Viennese charm and rustic accent was a bonus, even if the urbanity made one wonder where on earth in that part of the world this sophisticated bird-man came from.
As Queen of Night, dressed as a cross between a smart debutante’s mum and an airline chief stewardess, Eileen Hulse displayed her attractive, individual voice in cramped conditions-even if the high notes are there (and they were) no soprano can do full justice to the second aria kneeling in a crypt. Her final appearance (more heard than seen, in fact) with her Ladies, excellently paced by the conductor, awoke a wicked hope that the Queen might triumph and Sarastro’s big mouth be padlocked for ever.
The whippy, bubbling playing of the GTO Orchestra gave much pleasure although in an unexpected way Mr Bolton’s quick tempos (far preferable to a somnolent, over reverent Zauberflöte) made one conscious of the lack of surrounding dialogue – any composer with Mozart’s theatre instinct must have carefully considered the proportions between speech and music. Shorn of context the two Priests’ short duet became a mad, absurd scramble, Monostatos faded into the background.
More worryingly, some of the great moments (the reunion of Pamina and Tamino, the Armed Men, the trials) slipped by while phrase after familiar phrase was drained of warmth. The inclusion in Act 2 of Tamino’s and Papageno’s ‘Pamina, wo bist du?’ duet was under the circumstances a good idea – in such a mish-mash who minds if it is by Mozart or not? Why, one felt at some of the production’s flatter moments, use Mozart at all?