The P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations: Vol. 1 - The Magic Flute: Adaptation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (v. 1)

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9781561633517: The P. Craig Russell Library of Opera Adaptations: Vol. 1 - The Magic Flute: Adaptation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (v. 1)
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Long out of print, the many adaptations that Russell has done of famous operas are finally collected again in 3 volumes, in the wake of his highly successful massive recent adaptation of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung. This first volume presents his adaptation of one of Mozart’s most famous works, a farcical tale mixed with fantasy. The story begins as the Queen of the Night sets Prince Tamino on a quest to rescue her daughter, Pamina from the evil Sarastro. On the way, he meets the bird-catcher Papageno, who is persuaded” to help Tamino in his quest. Tamino’s spiritual quest is counterpoised with Papageno’s own earthly search for his one true love, Papagena. Both couples’ strivings are juxtaposed with the eternal conflict between Sarastro and the Queen of the Night.

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Review:

Mozart's last opera, the simultaneously comic and serious fairy tale The Magic Flute (Die Zauberfloete), is as problematic as anything in the medium. Some deplore it for its perceived sexism and racism; some deplore it for its arguably goofy plot. "Depending on your perspective," writes David Foil in his essay in this book, it "is either the silliest opera ever written or a work of profound insight that happens to be dressed in the trappings of a cartoon." That it is Mozart's sublime music that ennobles something meant to be merely a short-lived popular entertainment is not in question.

This volume, issued by Black Dog Opera Library, puts together Foil's essay, lots of pictures, a complete libretto (with running commentary) in English and German, and a classic recording on two compact discs in one comfortably priced hardcover package. It is a fine introduction to what remains a great opera, goofy plot or no. (And Bellini's plots aren't even goofier?) It is worth buying just for the now out-of-print EMI/Angel 1972 (remastered in 1987) recording, contained on two very long-playing CDs, found inside the front and back covers of the book. The dialogue portions work better in this version than in most recordings. Anneliese Rothenberger is an appealing Pamina, and Walter Berry is a delightful Papageno. Edda Moser nails the difficult music of the Queen of Night, while Kurt Moll is our day's definitive Sarastro. Wolfgang Sawallisch, brisk and never lugubrious, conducts his soloists and the Bavarian State Opera Chorus and Orchestra with total certainty.

From the Publisher:

The ultimate gift for opera lovers, the irresistible illustrated libretto pairs Davide Pizzigoni's engaging images with J. D. McClatchy's witty new translation and a music CD of the rare 1937 recording of Arturo Toscanini conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.

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