The most accurate way I can sum up Hubbard Hall Opera Theatre’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) is that it is direct. This is in fact, a compliment of the highest order. There is no pretension here, no fussiness. Paul Houghtaling’s direction is self-effacing. The clean, pure lines of the opera are brought to life in the practicality of the set and the actions of the singers. A circular walkway encloses the orchestra, making Mozart’s music the central player. The performance itself seemed to me a splendid and solemn ritual, enacted around the players, ably led by conductor Kelly Crandell and concertmistress Irene Fitzgerald-Cherry. The comic elements were, for once, in balance with the more serious tone to which the music returns incessantly. Brian Kuhl’s steadfast Tamino and Mary Thorne’s clear-voiced Pamina were priest-like in their steadiness and pristine vocalism. Charles Martin as Sarastro sang instead of orated, and in his second aria showed tenderness as well as strength. Of course, Andrew Pardini stole the show as Papageno — Schikaneder knew what he was doing.
The primary occasion for this writing was Emmanuel Music’s fine performance of Mozart’s last opera, La Clemenza di Tito, under Music Director Ryan Turner. However, two extraordinary recordings of works Mozart composed during those busy final months of his life have appeared, as downloads from Pristine Classics, and they are not only magnificent in themselves, but they provide an enlightening context for this somewhat elusive opera seria. These recordings are of the legendary 1951 Salzburg performance of Die Zauberflöte under Wilhelm Furtwängler in the spectacularly improved sound we have come to expect from Andrew Rose, and a magnificent studio recording of the Requiem under Sir Thomas Beecham from 1954-56.