The Metropolitan Opera's revival of Julie Taymor's imaginative staging of Die Zauberflöte is a complete success. Mozart's final opera is a tricky one to bring off in the theater, but Monday's performance saw this talented young cast throwing themselves into the story and bringing this symbolic "quest opera" to shimmering life.
Matthew Polenzani is a natural fit as Tamino. His high, lyric tenor voice lies easily on the vocal line, and he sings with great natural beauty and tone. However, it is Nathan Gunn's expert Papageno that invariably steals the show. Gunn brings his experience in art songs to the role of the energetic bird-catcher. As the "natural man" who isn't interested in the mythic pretensions of Tamino's quest, he is the very soul of the Flute.
Bass Hans-Peter König is an impressive as Sarastro. Displaying a noble tone and full, rich bass voice, he was an imposing presence. One hopes that this fine German singer will be a key part of the new Met Ring Cycle, beginning next season. Character tenor Greg Fedderly made the most of his comic opportunities as Monostatos. Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova was an accurate, laser-toned Queen of the Night. Not the prettiest voice, but she hit all those high Fs.
Adam Fischer led the Met forces in a stripped-down reading of the score. Conducting with the pedal firmly on the floor, he kept the action moving. This enabled the actors to expand and improvise, livening the ritualistic second act. Julie Taymor's production with its impressive puppetry (designed by Taymor and Michael Curry) continues to impress with its original vision of this opera.