This disc of highlights from Herbert von Karajan's 1980 recording of Die Zauberflöte offers a sturdy account of the opera's best-known music. The Berlin Philharmonic is a larger ensemble than is often used for the opera, but the orchestra plays with fleet delicacy and Karajan's reading is nicely nuanced and well-paced. The cast is for the most part very fine. Francisco Araiza and Edith Mathis make a robust royal couple, and Mathis is simply splendid in the clarion purity of her delivery. Gottfried Hornik grows into the role of Papageno and is more effective in his later appearances than in "Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja." Janet Perry's Papagena is somewhat more subtle than is usual for the part, but to good effect. Surprisingly, José van Dam is less than imposing as Sarastro because his lower register sounds uncharacteristically thin and forced. As the Queen of the Night, Karin Ott is impressively effortless sounding and precise, although her voice is somewhat small. It's luxury casting to have singers of the caliber of Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Agnes Baltsa, and Hanna Schwarz as the Three Ladies. The performance's weakest link is the singing of the Three Boys, who sound breathy and strangulated. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is clean, well balanced, and spacious. This may not be the most sublime performance of the opera on disc, but it is entirely respectable, and has moments of great beauty.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), opera, K. 620|