Mozart: Die Zauberflöte - M. Price, Burrows, Deutekom, Bryn-Jones, Ward, Robinson; Wisch. London, 1968
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There is a certain cynicism that can develop towards this opera. Perhaps it is all the half-hearted revivals that are mounted with the sole goal of selling seats to families and bringing in some much need revenue to opera companies. That is precisely why performances like this which highlight the genius and wonder of Mozart are so important and remind us why this opera is so beloved. This recording is in an excellent English translation (although one that does not gloss over the racist elements of this opera.) The young Margaret Price is radiant as Pamina. The voice is opulent and effortless. Stuart Burrows is a dignified Tamino. The best way to sum up Cristina Deutekom's awesome queen of the night is to have you imagine a woman with the voice of an Elektra but with astonishing coloratura and a great high f (I know it stretches credulity but that is a pretty accurate assessment.) Her English is not the clearest in the cast but her accent inadvertently adds an interesting "femme fatale" quality to the part. David Ward sings Sarastro and brings mellifluous tones as well as gravitas to the part. Of this glittering cast probably the stand-out is Delme Bryn-Jones. I had known that this woefully overlooked singer had a magnificent voice, the likes of which could rival the greatest of his day or any day. What astounded me were his skills as an actor. His comic delivery could be right out of "Fawlty Towers" or "Monty Python." One particular line that brought uproarious laughter came during the trial scene when he exclaims "Do you know all these tests could put a man off birds for life!" (A zesty pun when given that "birds" is a slang for woman) The sound is excellent, the cast is wonderful and this performance is one that could convert even the staunchest purist to the importance of opera in English.