[Met Performance] CID:247660
Die Zauberflöte {207} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/11/1976.

(Debuts: James Conlon, Sheila Nadler, Peter Fekula, Adam Guettel, Adam Hyman
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 11, 1976


DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE {207}
Mozart-Schikaneder

Pamina..................Benita Valente
Tamino..................Stuart Burrows
Queen of the Night......Colette Boky
Sarastro................John Macurdy
Papageno................Donald Gramm
Papagena................Loretta Di Franco
Monostatos..............Ragnar Ulfung
Speaker.................Morley Meredith
First Lady..............Ellen Shade
Second Lady.............Jean Kraft
Third Lady..............Sheila Nadler [Debut]
Genie...................Peter Fekula [Debut]
Genie...................Adam Guettel [Debut]
Genie...................Adam Hyman [Debut]
Priest..................Jon Garrison
Priest..................Russell Christopher
Guard...................Charles Anthony
Guard...................Philip Booth

Conductor...............James Conlon [Debut]

Production..............Günther Rennert
Stage Director..........Bodo Igesz
Designer................Marc Chagall

Die Zauberflöte received nineteen performances this season.

Review of Harriett Johnson in the Post

That "Magic" Is Back

An unexpected thrust of honor struck the Metropolitan Opera Saturday night: 26-year-old New York born James Conlon made his Met debut leading Mozart's "Die Zauberföte" (The Magic Flute). Conlon inspired a magic that hasn't been there since this production first came to light in February 1967. That means it's taken the Met almost 10 years to produce a "Flute" that is worthy of the enchanting, fanciful color-design dizzy Chagall sets and of course the great Mozart score.

Conducting from memory with the energy of Joe Namath eating up the field with the ball, Conlon was full of the music and directed the orchestra with the authority of someone years older. If one really understands the music - either by instinct or experience or by a combination - the chronological age doesn't matter. Conlon took, on the whole, fast tempi but those which fitted the moods; those which he and the singers could control. When the music called for serenity he gave it in full measure. He was aware of the singer's needs and gave the excellent cast a most sympathetic collaboration; more important, one which was sensitively attuned to Mozart.

He conducted with an urgency that communicated itself to most of those on stage. Benita Valente, the lovely Pamina who sang exquisitely, lacked something in excitement because she didn't feel the music intensely from within. Beautiful to look at and to hear in the abstract, her singing was bland. If she had caught only a little of the inner positive tension that animated Conlon, she could have been as commanding in her genre as he was in his.

When Conlon conducted "La Bohème" for the American Opera Theater in 1972, he became the first Juilliard undergraduate to conduct a major operatic production. Last night through a continuously agile flow of rhythm and a real sense of style which made the music laugh as well as philosophize, Conlon produced something of the dramatic hypnosis that Ingmar Bergman accomplished in his unforgettable film of the opera. A lesser but still outstanding contribution was Ragnar Ulfung in his first Met Monostatos. He exuded a rustically, sardonic humor in an essentially thankless role while he sang commendably.

Donald Gramm's Papageno is a classic and when the singers took their solo bows he got the biggest hand. Not only does Gramm sing the role superbly but he injects the part with a wistful comedy - saucer eyes and all - that embodies the Papagenos of the world, innocent of that life is really all about; puzzled at the problems; yearning to be left alone to play magic bells. Stuart Burrows was an elegant Tamino who sang the role in style and with a free, easy, virile sound. John Macurdy was exceptional as Sarastro singing superbly with his rich, sonorous voice and acting with appropriate dignity.

Colette Boky, called upon to substitute on short notice for Rita Shane, who was ill, as the Queen of the Night, sang the role admirably except for the fiendish high "F's" which she couldn't make. But Miss Boky, who is essentially a lyric, not a dramatic coloratura, and whose voice was liquid and impressive, should be commended for being a good trouper in a part for which by nature she is not suited.

Loretta Di Franco sang and acted the best Papagena I can remember from her. She fluttered as if she were Doug Henning's accomplice in his "Magic Show" and she sang prettily. Sheila Nadler in her Met debut made a favorable impression as the Third Lady; Ellen Shade was First Lady; Jean Kraft Second Lady; Morely Meredith the high Priest. The three Genies. Peter Fekula, Adam Guetel and Adam Hyman had such stunning haircuts they all must have emerged from Sassoon's. They were beguiling.

Stage director Bodo Igesz appeared to have caught the Conlon fever. He encouraged a light touch that was in the best taste. The stage business smiled as the music did. The next performance of "The Flute" with the same cast and conductor will be Thursday.



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