Riccardo Muti conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker
Production by Pierre Audi
DVD Decca, part of the series "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The Complete Operas, Salzburger Festspiele", M22.
What makes Riccardo Muti achieve greatness is his ability to extract the essence of each score – at least that's how I feel. He has a truly unique talent to unravel every detail and emphasize each line.
Opera should be as much about music as it is about singing. Yet it is obvious that assumption is very unwidely spread among conductors. The orchestra is too often relegated to a supporting role as singing is elevated to the true essence of a piece.
That's never the view of Riccardo Muti.
This Zauberflöte is yet another example of it. Don't get me wrong, I slightly drop into boredom after a while, Muti or not Muti, but at least I hang on there for some time and enjoy hearing the orchestra no matter what – superb in the Papageno aria "Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja" in act I for instance.
Clearly Diana Damrau's Queen of the Night is stealing the show with her incredible charisma and magnetism – not to mention her brilliant vocal expressivity. René Pape (Sarasto) is not half bad either, as is Christian Gerhaher as Papageno.
On the other hand, Pierre Audi's staging is a mess. The sets and costumes are beyond ugly, and the production lacks any kind of meaning – it obviously doesn't help to know nearly nothing of the storyline, and Audi's staging doesn't help a bit.