The Metropolitan Opera – Julie Taymor’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute – Matthew Polenzani, Hera Hyesang Park, Rolando Villazón, Kathryn Lewek, Morris Robinson; conducted by Jane Glover

Die Zauberflöte, K620 – Singspiel in two Acts to a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder [abridged Met version sung in an English adaptation by J. D. McClatchy, with Met surtitles in English, German and Spanish by Michael Panayos]

Sarastro – Morris Robinson
Pamina – Hera Hyesang Park
Tamino – Matthew Polenzani
Queen of the Night – Kathryn Lewek
Papageno – Rolando Villazón
Papagena – Ashley Emerson
Monostatos – Rodell Rosel
Speaker – Patrick Carfizzi
First Lady – Felicia Moore
Second Lady – Sarah Larsen
Third Lady – Daryl Freedman
Spirits – Julian Knopf, Julian Fertel, N. Vasey Schopflocher
Priests – Ashraf Sewailam, Mark Schowalter
Guards – Richard Trey Smagur, Adam Lau
Slaves – Stephen Paynter, Kurt Phinney, Craig Montgomery

Maria Phegan (dancer)

The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
The Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
Jane Glover

Julie Taymor – Production & Costume Design
George Tsypin – Set Designer
Donald Holder – Lighting Designer
Julie Taymor & Michael Curry – Puppet Design
Mark Dendy – Choreographer
Sarah Ina Meyers – Revival Stage Director

5 of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 10 December, 2021
Venue: Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City

In this, the MET’s seventh revival of its 2004 production of Der Zauberflöte, the company presents its abridged, family-friendly, English-language version which premiered in 2006. Julie Taymor’s imaginative staging continues to be totally enchanting, both visually and musically, with a cast comprised of an attractive blend of new and familiar voices. 

Back in the house after an eight-year absence, tenor Rolando Villazón nearly steals the show as Papageno, the lovable lout who joins Prince Tamino on his quest to rescue the Princess Pamina. He Met-debuted in 2003 as Alfredo in La traviata – Villazón has been beset by vocal problems over the past fifteen years. As the wily bird-catcher, a part almost always sung by a baritone, he makes an impressive role debut, delivering the strongest dramatic performance of the night. Displaying impeccable comic timing, he clearly revels in the part, most noticeably with his cry of “Oh, lobster!” as he struggles to snag the food items in the floating feast dispatched by the High Priest Sarastro. While long on humor, his portrayal is not without pathos, especially in his Act Two aria, when, in smoothly resonant tones, he pines for “a cuddly wife or sweetheart” to love.

As the fearsome Queen of the Night, who promises her daughter Pamina in marriage to Tamino if he rescues her from Sarastro, soprano Kathryn Lewek’s stage-presence is as awe-inspiring as her powerful voice. In a blood-red robe adorned with giant wing-like swaths of fabric, she rides her difficult and defiant aria, ‘Der Hölle Rache’ – here ‘The Vengeance of Hell’ – with ease and conviction.

Another memorable portrayal is delivered by Morris Robinson. With his imposing bass and bearing he is perfectly cast as the sagacious sorcerer Sarastro who orders Tamino to undergo various ordeals to prove his suitability to marry Pamina. Tenor Rodell Rosel is hilarious as the comic villain Monostatos who is repeatedly thwarted in his ludicrous attempts to seduce Pamina and capture Tamino. One of the most risible moments of the opera is when he and his henchmen break into a hilariously campy dance. 

Matthew Polenzani returns as Tamino. With his sweet-sounding lyric tenor, he does his best to make the courageous but relatively dull prince seem appealing. He is well-matched with soprano Hera Hyesang Park as the virtuous Pamina. She is genuinely touching as she sings her Act Two song of desolation, ‘Now my heart is filled with sadness’, in which she fears her beloved Tamino has deserted her. 

George Tsypin’s dazzling set designs, replete with Masonic symbols are vibrantly lit by Donald Holder. The colorful costumes designed by Taymor, and the bevy of highly fanciful yet lifelike puppets – dancing bears, frolicking flamingos, undulating birds – created by her and Michael Curry, create a magical sense of wonder.  

Jane Glover leads a seasoned, straightforward reading of Mozart’s music, maintaining tight and vigorous ensemble throughout and eliciting appropriate sparkle and humor in the Papageno-related passages. The sumptuous Met Chorus is characterful and transparent in this superb and splendidly realized production.

  • Further performances on December 14, 18 (matinee), 21, 23, 27 and 29; January 1 and 5
  • The December 18 performance will be broadcast live beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern Time via the Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.

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