This 2019 recording was the sixth in the series of Mozart operas undertaken by tenor Rolando Villazón and conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, a hot property in the operatic world at the time. It has sold well out of the gate. Perhaps this is because Die Zauberflöte, even more than other Mozart operas, was ripe for a fresh interpretation. It gets one in this production from the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus, with Villazón taking for himself not the tenor role of Tamino, which you might expect, but that of the comic-romantic, usually baritone Papageno. It works here because it fits with Nézet-Séguin's overall conception of the work. You might divide recordings and performances of Die Zauberflöte into two groups: those that treat the opera as a small, semi-popular work, and those that take it at full scale. Nézet-Séguin decides he can have it all, and he pulls it off. Much of the opera is light and delicately funny, and Villazón adapts well to this. He avoids a cutesy sound throughout, and he isn't challenged in his lower register simply because Nézet-Séguin is not asking for a lot of volume. Klaus Florian Vogt's Tamino is similarly restrained. But when Mozart calls for a big sound, Nézet-Séguin is not afraid to draw the contrast. The Queen of the Night, Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova, offers an unusually muscular "Der Hölle Rache," avoiding any trace of squeakiness, and the scenes with Sarastro and his royal entourage are given full sonic splendor. The overall effect is an alternation between low comedy and spectacle, and this may have been very close to what Mozart and Schikaneder had in mind. The rest of the cast, mostly German, is uniformly strong, and this is a highly recommended Zauberflöte all in all.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2
Zweiter Aufzug: Dialog: Mensch, Papageno! Du hättest verdient, auf immer in finstern Klüften der Erde zu wandern