We Are Geeks

We spent Nettl's birthday with our family, and with music. Lauren drove up from OU to spend the weekend, and it's great having her home. She gave Nettl a DVD of Covent Garden's 2003 production of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), and we watched it almost immediately...

Those of you who know me very well know that this is my absolute favorite opera and that I've seen it many, many times, both recorded and live. I've seen great, good, and not so good performances and I can safely tell you that this one is now my favorite. For one thing, the ensemble was carefully cast so that their voices work well with each other. And none of the actors had tinkly little voices, they were all full and rich. For a second thing, it was directed in such a way as to bring out the more esoteric essence of the story. For those who aren't familiar with Die Zauberflöte, it was written to be understood on three levels. First, there is the fairytale, which Mozart and the his collaborators intended so that the common people could enjoy the opera. Second, there is the political allegory of the spirit of revolution that was in the air in 1791. And third, there is the Masonic symbolism that acts as the dark matter that holds the three strata together.

That said, I can confess that I really appreciated Simon Keenlyside's Papageno, who was played more like an "every man" than the clown he usually is. Don't get me wrong. I adore the little feather-headed buffoon, but this Papageno was more like the rest of us. I especially liked the duck hat he wore (not to mention the way he gave one of the priests the two-finger salute), but it was ultimately his baritone voice that impressed me most, and this comes from someone who is staunchly loyal to Thomas Allen, who sang the role of the Speaker in this production. I've seen Sir Allen live as Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro) and he's the best. What was wonderful was hearing how true his voice still was in 2003 at the age of 60. He has lost absolutely no quality; he's still as powerful and true as he was 25 years ago.

Although I don't intend this entry to be a review, I cannot write about this production without mentioning Diana Damrau who sang the Queen of the Night. Wow! She was absolutely flawless. Many people think that those high F's are the hardest part of her grand aria, Der Hölle Rache, but they're not. While they're certainly the showiest, by far the most difficult passages are those long melismas and "turn arounds". Most singers slide around them, but Damrau hit every 16th note head on, and clearly. She is now the ideal Königen in my estimation. I don't know how anyone can top that, because I don't think anyone can sing her two arias more perfectly. I'd love to tell you about the other principals, but as I said, this isn't intended to be a review.

After the opera we went downstairs, where I made the dinner Nettl wanted: my special hamburgers, corn on the cob, and ranch style beans. We sat around the table laughing and talking. Man, I love my family! I'd made a coconut birthday cake topped with slivered almonds, so some of us had a slice while some of us waited until later. After cleaning up the kitchen, I came back upstrairs where Nettl was watching the opera again! I lay down and napped through Act I, and then we spent Act II sitting on the bed, singing along with the score that I held in my lap. We LOVE reading scores, and reading through Zauberflöte together, and singing the parts, was great fun.

Yeah, we're geeks.