The Metropolitan Opera HD Live: Season 1, Episode 1

Mozart's The Magic Flute (24 Jan. 2007)

TV Episode  |  Music
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Prince Tamino and Papageno are sent by the Queen of Night to save her daughter Pamina from the clutches of the evil lord Sarastro.



(libretto: Englsh translation)
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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Matthew Polenzani ...
Ying Huang ...
Pamina, the Princess in distress
René Pape ...
Nathan Gunn ...
Erika Miklósa ...
Wendy Bryn Harmer ...
Kate Lindsey ...
Tamara Mumford ...
Third Lady
Stephen Paynter ...
First Slave
Kenneth Floyd ...
Second Slave
Gregory Cross ...
Third Slave
Greg Fedderly ...
Bennett Kosma ...
First Spirit
Jesse Burnsode Murray ...
Second Spirit
Jesse Burnside Murray ...
Second Spirit


In Act 1, Tamino is sent on a mission by the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter from the evil lord Sarastro. He is accompanied by the friendly bird-catcher, Papageno. But Tamino will soon discover that what he has been told was false, and if he really wishes to win Pamina's hand, he himself will have to undergo his own personal transformation. Mozart turns the "rescue opera" formulas inside out - as he often did with other musical forms - and by the end of Act 1, we realize that everything we have been led to believe up to this point is untrue. Act 2 sets matters right. The opera is one of Mozart's last creations (he died two months after the premiere), but considering that he was only 35 at the time, he was a young man and still developing new styles; The Magic Flute hints at what "might have been" had he lived a longer life. Written by dnitzer

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Release Date:

24 January 2007 (USA)  »

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Production Co:

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Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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Did You Know?


Version of ABC Weekend Specials: The Magic Flute (1994) See more »


Die Zauberflöte
(Singspiel in 2 acts)
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder
New English text by J.D. McClatchy
Conducted by James Levine
Performed by Michael Parloff, flute solo
See more »

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User Reviews

The Magic Piccolo
19 August 2007 | by (Birmingham, England) – See all my reviews

For as many years as I can remember there have been radio broadcasts of Saturday matinées from the New York Met. Suddenly there is a huge technological leap forward as they are broadcast live in widescreen, high definition television. Admittedly, we in the UK have to wait eight months before we can see them but it is still very exciting. That is why I should not be too grumpy about this production of the Magic Flute, directed by Julie Taymor. It is the first of a series of what the Met calls special holiday presentations. It cuts an hour off the usual running time, mainly by omitting most of the dialogue but also by omitting some arias or by reducing them in length. The object, I imagine, was to produce a Magic Flute that the whole family, including young children could enjoy. Curiously though, I could only spot a couple of children among the usual audience of well-heeled, middle-aged New Yorkers.

Visually this production is spectacular, as you might expect from Julie Taymor. There are animal dancers in fantastical costumes, wild animal puppets, and a huge prehistoric bird that caries the three boys across the stage. As the Queen of the Night sings, a troupe of puppeteers is required to manipulate her sensational costume. All the costumes are magnificent: I could have spent the entire production just trying to work out how they constructed Sarastro's cloak.

But, and there has to be a but, this emphasis on the visual is at the expense of the music and the drama. Eliminating the dialogue means that the opera makes even less sense than usual. Taymor gets round Mozart's racism by having a whiteface Monostatos. She gets round Mozart's sexism by making Sarastro an equal opportunities employer with half of the priests in his brotherhood being women.

René Pape is about as good a Sarastro as you can get. Ying Huang is a delectable Pamina, although I fear that she suffers more than the other principals from cuts in her music. Matthew Polenzani is an uninspiring Tamino, although it is an uninspiring role. Erika Miklósa is an unexciting Queen of the Night. Nathan Gunn plays Pappageno as a straightforward idiot with no hint of the complexity that this character can have. I last saw Nathan Gunn as Buzz Aldrin in Jonathan Dove's opera "Man on the Moon" so I was amused to see that his Pappageno costume looks like a green spacesuit. I did enjoy the moment where the Three Ladies strike him dumb by snatching his codpiece and locking it to his mouth. Otherwise, the Three Ladies are a miscalculation, on Taymor's part. They are unable to project their characters because they have to perform behind Disneyesque masks. The three boys, on the other hand, looked fantastic with white beards down to the ground. Unfortunately their singing is painful to the ear.

Although this broadcast is in English, it is also subtitled in English, presumably for the benefit of deaf opera lovers. Sorry, I said I would not be grumpy, but I think I have been.

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