jueves, mayo 23, 2013

Rachmaninov double-bill flawed by arbitrary production


            There has been no Russian opera at the Colón since 2006, when Marcelo Lombardero programmed the premiere of Mussorgsky´s second version of "Boris Godunov". So the first performances in Argentina of two Rachmaninov lyrical pieces is obviously a very good idea. We saw "Aleko", written when the composer was 19,  a commission from the Moscow Conservatory as a graduation score in 1893. And "Francesca da Rimini", written intermittently betweern 1900 and 1905 and premiered in January 1906. This leaves for the future the other Rachmaninov opera, "The avaricious knight", created in 1905 and a very interesting and introspective piece.

            His saturnine temperament is clearly grasped in the way he narrates musically two tragic love triangles, albeit very different ones. "Aleko" is based on Pushkin´s poem "The gypsies" as adapted by Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, a strong personality of the stage that founded with Konstantin Stanislavski the Moscow Theatre of Art. The story has parallels with that of Leoncavallo´s "I pagliacci": in "Aleko" a group of nomadic gypsies camps and for their own entertainment they dance and sing, in "I pagliacci" a small company of nomadic comedians goes from town to town playing "commedia dell´arte" characters. In both a man a good deal older than the girl is cuckolded by a young paramour, and in both he kills girl and lover. There are also aspects that recall Puccini´s "Il Tabarro".

            Naturally at 19 Rachmaninov´s style is still in a budding condition, but his talent was already obvious: colorful orchestration, a gift for melody, energy in the joyous moments and a sense of ominous drama in Aleko´s monologue. True, it isn´t much of a story and there´s a lot of padding to arrive at an hour´s length (choruses and dances) but something similar happens, e.g., in Mascagni´s "Cavalleria Rusticana" (still another triangle) and it hasn´t diminished its success although it is objectively a fault.

            "Francesca da Rimini" was finished when the composer was 31 and indeed it is a starkly dramatic work, with a much more mature musical language: very rich and suggestive chromatic harmony, an unerring dramatic sense in the intimate blend of the vocal line with the words, off-stage choirs of oppressive strength, a powerful monologue for Lanceotto Malatesta, and an exalted love duet for Paolo and Francesca. Two aspects must be told: Rachmaninov was a disciple of Tchaikovsky, who composed a tremendous tone poem on the subject; and our composer was teacher to Chaliapin, who often sang in both operas.

            Of course, the grim Medieval tale about the lovers was referred by Dante in the "Hell" section of his "Divine Comedy", condemning them to eternal turmoil in the circle of the lustful. Rachmaninov asked his librettist Modest Tchaikovsky (brother of the composer) to include Dante and the Spirit of Virgil in the libretto, probably taking the idea from Ambroise Thomas´ opera of the same name. Thus the opera has a prologue and epilogue in Hell flanking the two scenes that happen in Malatesta´s Palace in Rimini. The total length is 70 minutes.

            The Colón assembled an able cast for both operas, featuring the specialist bass-baritone Sergei Leiferkus, who recorded them in 1996 with Neeme Järvi. Granted, his voice shows the toll of time, but he is still a major artist and a riveting presence. Soprano Irina Oknina (debut) had too much vibrato at first in "Aleko"; as she advanced in her Zemfira the voice came under control, and she was quite good as Francesca. There she was partnered by a huge dramatic tenor, the American Hugh Smith, whose voice is as ample as his girth, though his vocal method could be improved.  The tenor in both was Leonid Zakhozhaev, known in Argentina in Wagnerian roles (Tristan and Siegfried) and quite comfortable (as logical) in these Russian parts (Young Gypsy in "Aleko", Dante in "Francesca). A very good young bass, Maxim Kuzmin-Karavaev, sang "An old gypsy" in "Aleko" (where he recounts his tragic marital experience and seems to influence Aleko) and the Spirit of Virgil. The Choir under Miguel Martínez was a positive factor. The Orchestra began "Aleko" rather tentatively but later found its feet; it was much better in "Francesca", where the knowledge of conductor Ira Levin was evident. A relevant fact: Levin, after showing his mettle in "Lohengrin" (Wagner) and "Oedipe" (Enesco), has been named Principal Conductor and will also conduct "Die Frau ohne Schatten" (Strauss) and "Un Ballo in Maschera" (Verdi).

            And now, as so often, the bad news: the productions by the Romanian Silviu Purcarete (debut) were completely wrong-headed. Items: a) there is no relationship between both works except the triangle side, but the producer used a unit set (that plague) for the gypsy camp (transformed into a hangar with a red car obstructing the view to no avail) and for the whole of "Francesca"; b) in a masterpiece of silliness, the gypsy dances were transformed into circus acts by a couple of acrobats, one of them being a "bear", and surrealistically, car and bear show up in "Francesca"...c) poor Paolo and Francesca can´t even sin without a whole bevy of voyeuristic keletons around them. For the record, stage and costume designs were by Helmut Stürmer, the lighting was by Henry Skelton (leaving often singers in the dark) and the choreography by Karel Vanek left me speechless for I only saw acrobats. And why was a "dramaturg" listed? What´s his use?

And so on...

For Buenos Aires Herald

miércoles, mayo 15, 2013

Lazic and Dichkovskaia: The art of piano playing

            In three successive days our city witnessed piano recitals of the highest level: the marvelous audacity of Dejan Lazic in two sessions for the Mozarteum with identical programme at the Colón, and a Romantic combination of Chopin and Rachmaninov offered with splendid command by Irina Dichkovskaia in a Mozarteum Midday Concert at the Gran Rex. If I give pride of place to Lazic it is because the particular combination of scores he offered showed him to be not only world-class in purely technical terms but because it showed an inquisitive intellect such as few pianists have (Andras Schiff comes to mind).

            I certainly congratulate the Mozarteum in accepting Lazic´s proposal, for neither the institution nor the artist opted for the easy way of giving us recognised masterpieces of surefire success in the right hands. Of course Lazic can play admirably a conventional programme that would fire the spirit of a mainstream audience. However, he had the courage and the intelligence to choose admirable music that most people have never heard, with the possible exception of a couple of Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas.  And he wanted the audience to try to appreciate the hidden liens between Twentieth- and Eighteenth-Century composers.

            Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach is too neglected considering his importance. The second of the children borne to Johann Sebastian by Maria Barbara, CPE not only was the guardian of JSBach´s music, but himself went during his rather long life (1714-88) from the High Baroque to "Sturm und Drang" Classicism. No one represents better the triumphal genius of straddling two momentous epochs of the History of Music and being representative of both. Yet his music is rarely heard, except for some symphonies and concerti and his Magnificat. Exceptionally subtle and innovative in his harmony, as well as a specialist of the "Affektenlehre" ("Theory of the Affects"), his music is an ideal blend of sense and sensibility. Lazic, born in Zagreb (Croatia), but an artistic result of Salzburg´s Mozarteum, has the knack of making music written for the harpsichord sounding completely natural for the piano. He chose a  slow-fast Fantasy in D, Wq 117 Nº 14 (Wq refers to the catalog organised by Alfred Wotquenne in 1905), "La Boehmer" in D, Wq 117 Nº 26 (an Allegro) and Sonata in D minor, Wq 69, made up of a slow first movement and a long Theme with variations. Fascinating music played with crystalline, note-perfect command.

            Apparently Benjamin Britten´s "Holiday Diary", Op.5, is one of his few piano scores (others: a Nocturne and Five Waltzes); curious, because he was a fine pianist. An early work written when he was 21, this suite has four fragments: a rather turbulent "Early Morning Bathe", an ABA "Sailing" (A is calm, B is intense), a brilliant "Fun Fair" and a contemplative "Nocturne". It was stunningly played by Lazic and it may have been a premiere here (ditto por the CPE Bach pieces).

            After the interval a rather fantastic thing happened. Twice D. Scarlatti sonatas were followed by Béla Bartók creations, and again Lazic managed to make the harpsichord originals pianistic, and the Bartók pieces strong and pointed without ever pounding away. Out of the whole programme, only the "Pastoral Sonata" K.9 may be called a standard (K. stands for Ralph Kirkpatrick´s catalog, which superseded the old one by Alessandro Longo –L-). It was followed by K. 430 and K.135, in glittering, diamantine versions, followed by applause. But then came an astonishing experiment: there was no pause whatsoever (Lazic´s gestural stance, allowing just a few seconds of silence, made applause impossible) between Bartók, again Scarlatti, and Bartók for the ending. It reminded me of another astonishing fusion, when Christoph Von Dohnányi conducted Wagner and went on to Ligeti.

            Bartók´s "Six dances on Bulgarian rhythms" are the ending of his whole piano method, "Mikrokosmos", Vol. VI, Nos 148-53 ; endlessly imaginative transpositions of folklore transformed by a master who had done years of field work collecting songs and dances; the irregular Bulgarian rhythms add within the same measure, e.g., 2+2+2+3 beats.  Then, D.Scarlatti´s K. 380, 420 and 82, another three wonderful binary "essercizi" (as he called them) out of an amazing 550 or so. Then, another possible premiere, the expressive Funeral March transcribed  from Bartók´s symphonic poem "Kossuth", on the Hungarian hero of the failed Independence War (1848-9) of Hungary against Austria; Bartók´s first symphonic work. Finally, the "Three rondos on Slovak folk themes", irresistible pieces dated 1927, in lovely performances. Just one encore given to a too-cold audience (though a very silent one): an Istrian dance, hence Croatian.

            I´ll be much briefer about the Belarusian 33-year-old Irina Dichkovskaia, for here we were on much more familiar ground and there´s little to say in a particularised way. Indeed, everything was played with utmost professionalism, always faithful to the score, completely in command of very technical aspect, controlled yet expressive, capable of offering beautiful soft touches in a Chopin Nocturne, or to attack with fearful vigor some powerhouse Rachmaninov. From Chopin: the Fantasia Op.49, the Nocturne Nº 8, Op.27 Nº2 and the Second Scherzo, plus as encores the "Minute Waltz" and the Fantasia-Impromptu. From Rachmaninov: the thick and complex Étude-tableau Op.39 Nº5, three Preludes (the lyrical Op.23 Nº4, the powerful march-like Op.23 Nº5, and the most famnous of all, the Prelude Op.3 Nº2), the Melody Op.3 Nº 3, and the torrential "Moment musical" Op.16 Nº4.

For Buenos Aires Herald

Orchestral ups and downs from Lithuania and B.A.

          The high points of our orchestral season (so far) were dealt with when I wrote about the Montreal and the Simón Bolívar orchestras. We descend a couple of rungs in this article, which concerns the debut of the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra (at the Coliseo, starting the Nuova Harmonia year) and concerts by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic and the National Symphony.

            It´s a curious coincidence that due to a replacement Juozas Domarkas, the Principal Conductor of the Lithuanians for several decades, inaugurated the Phil´s season in March (I wrote about it) instead of coming with his orchestra. The privilege fell to Vladimir Lande, who made his debut here last year leading the Saint Petersburg Symphony.

            I liked the orchestra but I wasn´t pleased with the choice of programme. Days before they had played in Rosario, and there they began, as it is logical, with Three Preludes by a Lithuanian composer, Mikolayus Ciurlionis. But here unaccountably they gave us instead the Overture to Johann Strauss II´s "Die Fledermaus" ("The Bat"). We thus lost an opportunity to connect with their music, so little known here.

            Matters were not ameliorated by the inclusion of a wonderful score that proved uncongenial to orchestra and conductor, Gershwin´s Piano Concerto, and through putting as "pièce de résistance" Brahms´ Fourth Symphony, played just one week before it was done by the Montrealers under Kent Nagano. The contest wasn´t tenable. Mind you, the Orchestra is good: apart from the muted trumpet solo in the Concerto´s second movement, the playing was uniformly reliable and homogeneous. A touch of acidity, the lack of a richer, mahogany-hued string ensemble, are the distance between an accomplished orchestra (the Lithuanians) and a virtuoso world-class organism (the Montrealers).

            As a sign that something wasn´t quite right interpretively, the best thing was a light, airy "Fledermaus", with the right inflexions and "joie de vivre". Xiayin Wang (debut), an attractive young Chinese girl, is a brilliant example of the excellent preparation of Oriental instrumentalists. She plays with firm command and splendid mechanism, but I found her a bit short in swing, perhaps because the Lithuanians and Lande gave her a doubtful accompaniment. Her encores were Gershwin´s "I got rhythm" and a small fast Chinese piece.

            The Brahms Symphony was well played but conducted with superficial phrasing in the first two movements; the joyous Scherzo and the Passacaglia fared better. The encore was rather unexpected, an agreeable Habanera by a composer I couldn´t place, nicely done.

            The Buenos Aires Philharmonic presented a programe with just two long scores. The first is little-heard, Tchaikovsky´s Second Piano Concerto. The First is of course an unfailing hit and the Second is less interesting, with too many rhetorical flourishes and some inflated sections, but it does merit an occasional outing and hasn´t been heard for long. Irish pianist Barry Douglas has visited us several times, always with fine results; last year he was pianist-conductor in Mozart and Beethoven Concerti. I feel that this sort of repertoire fits him fully, rather than Tchaikovsky´s Second, certainly played with fine professionalism but not with the powerhouse sound it requires. I was angry that we were offered the Siloti shortening of the second movement: in its full form it is a lovely trio with violin and cello adding to the beauty of the melodies; here they were greatly reduced. Uncharacteristically, Enrique Arturo Diemecke´s accompaniment was loud and unsubtle. But Douglas gave us a lovely encore, Brahms´ Intermezzo op.117/1.

            Diemecke redeemed himself with one of the best interpretations I´ve heard of Beethoven´s Third Symphony ("Heroic"), to my mind the most important in the whole of history, ever fresh although overplayed. With a Phil on its toes the conductor showed himself at his best: concentrated, orthodox, sensitive and clear.

            As usual the National Symphony was late in its plans, and this year it was worse, for after some pre-season concerts it was supposed to begin its season at the Auditorio de Belgrano, only really decent acoustic venue apart from the Colón. But the powers that be didn´t close their negotiations in time, and the two first concerts had to be given elsewhere. So, for the initial one, back to the too-resonant Bolsa de Comercio.

            It was a very good concert, with only two serious blemishes. The First Part was all-J.S.Bach: a first-rate performance of the Double Concerto for oboe and violin, in which the brothers Andrés and Antonio Spiller excelled. And then, the marvelous Cantata Nº 147 in two parts and ten fragments, the one that includes "Jesu, joy of men´s desiring". Pedro Calderón showed himself a good Bachian and he had a fine mixed choir (Coro Nacional de Jóvenes under Néstor Zadoff) and the unnecessary but nice Coro Nacional de Niños under María Isabel Sanz. Three very good solo singers: Ricardo González Dorrego (tenor), Alejandro Meerapfel (baritone) and Alejandra Malvino (contralto); Silvina Sadoly (soprano) was rather shrill. Blemish: the oboe d´amore player in the contralto aria unfortunately hadn´t command of the instrument and left gaping holes by stopping the dialogue with the singer at various points.

            Second blemish: no one told the public that José María Castro´s Concerto grosso wasn´t played. The closing announced piece was indeed done, and very well: Hindemith´s ingenuous and strong "Metamorphoses on themes by Carl Maria Von Weber". Result: many people thought they had heard J.M.Castro and remained on their seats waiting for Hindemith!

For Buenos Aires Herald

lunes, mayo 06, 2013

Marvelous Montreal musicians wow the Colón

            Twenty-two years ago our city had the impact of the first visit of the Montreal Symphony, then under Charles Dutoit.  At that time their records of Impressionist music were best-sellers; they are still references. What we heard then was an airy elegance, a natural transparence, a total professionalism, a cultured good taste. Merit of Dutoit but also of the players. Their return now after such a long period brought us the local debut of a great musician, for Kent Nagano is surely in the front line of conductors that are approaching their sixth decade (this is a guess, for his age is absent from the biography in the hand programme).

            Montreal is the biggest city of Quebec, the francophonic region of Canada. It would seem that extreme cold doesn´t hinder artistic life, for Chicago, Saint Petersburg and Moscow also have produced very fine orchestras. And the Montreal Symphony, ever since its foundation in 1934 by Wilfried Pelletier, has had a fantastic roster of Musical Directors, all of them much admired in BA: Désiré Defauw, Igor Markevich, Zubin Mehta, Franz-Paul Decker, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and Dutoit. Since September 2006 Kent Nagano has taken over.

            A Californian of Japanese extraction, Nagano has had a splendid career: he was an innovative Director of the Lyon Opera, Musical Director of the Hallé Orchestra, Principal Associate Conductor of the London Symphony, Artistic and Musical Director of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester in Berlin and the first Musical Director of the Los Angeles Opera. Currently he holds his post at Montreal along with a very impressive Musical Directorship of the Bavarian State Opera at Munich. And of course he has been guest conductor of the best orchestras in the world.

            The two programmes presented by the Mozarteum at the Colón, though not audacious, allowed  different views of the repertoire. The first was Middle European in a restricted period, 1845-85, and confronted two opposite concepts of music: the descriptive and narrative (Wagner´s Overture and Venusberg Music from "Tannhäuser") and the very essence of abstract creation during the Postromantic period (Brahms´ Fourth Symphony). The bridge between them was that most generous of composers, Franz Liszt (Second Piano Concerto), which allowed our music lovers to hear the debut of a fabulous Ukrainian pianist,  Serhij Salov, long-haired, tall, attired in a very Romantic way, and looking no more than thirty.

            "Tannhäuser" has two versions: the Dresden premiere was in 1845, and the Paris revision took place in 1861, including as a requisite of the Opera a ballet, the "Venusberg" (Mountain of Venus), intense, chromatic and erotic music. Wagner later made a concert version conflating the Overture with the ballet; Nagano didn´t do exactly this: at a certain point, as the excitement of the ballet winds down, he returned to the Overture and so ended with the solemn music of the Pilgrims in their way to Rome. The luscious sound of the Montreal strings and the expressive brass were quite an experience, and the qualities of Nagano were evident: the sense of style, the clear control, the limpid gestures, the orthodoxy that never bores.

            Liszt´s Second Concerto had various versions since 1849; the final one was in 1863. It is quirky, difficult and fascinating; in it the rhetoric is big but always justified, and the meshing of soloist and orchestra is so complex that only an equally virtuoso soloist and orchestra can succeed. It did, with as much poetry as brilliance, in the combined work of Salov and the orchestra. A pity, no encore from the pianist though the ovation was huge.

            Brahms´ Fourth is a pillar of the repertoire and is very often done, but its inexhaustible invention  seems new if done with such acumen and beauty as Nagano obtained from his very talented players. With impeccable tempi and phrasing that always went to the heart of Brahms´ dense ideas, this was wholly enjoyable.

            Encores: an exciting Prelude to Act 3 of Wagner´s "Lohengrin", a fresh and rhythmic "Farandole" from Bizet´s "L´Arlésienne" and what for me was the only bad idea of Nagano: a truncated Ravel "Bolero"...

            The second programme combined French and Russian composers and put the accent in color, rhythm and refinement. After a flying start with a stunning rendition of "The Corsair", Berlioz at his most advanced, came Ravel´s "Tzigane", a 9-minute rhapsody for violin and orchestra whose technical problems have always been the terror of even great virtuosi. Although Andrew Wan, the Montreal´s concertino, is honest and well-schooled, he didn´t quite make the grade.  The First Part closed with that masterpiece, Stravinsky´s 1919 Suite from "The Firebird"; this score has been done wonderfully in BA and I wouldn´t put this version at the very top, but yes, rather close to it; I especially relished the clarity and punch of Katchei´s Dance.

            What was resolutely on top was the best interpretation and playing I´ve ever heard in concert of that extraordinary work by Rimsky-Korsakov: "Scheherazade", surely the most accomplished piece of Orientalism in Western music. With unbelievably accurate and sensitive soloists (clarinet, oboe, bassoon, concertino Wan truly inspired) plus the unerring guidance by Nagano, this was truly memorable.

            Encores: "Lohengrin" and "Bolero" were repeated, but the first was an important plus: the most beautiful of Rossinian overtures, "Guillaume Tell", had an anthological interpretation, where I would feature the mellow, mahogany color of the perfectly tuned celli.  This is a great orchestra, where all sections dazzle.
For Buenos Aires Herald

“The Magic Flute”, a paradigm of contradiction

            "Die Zauberflöte" ("The Magic Flute") is perhaps the best-loved opera by Mozart and has been offered innumerable times in recent decades. I have consequently written often about it, although I wasn´t in BA when Renán produced it at the Colón two years ago. And, as ineluctably has to happen considering its silly libretto by Schikaneder, its triumph comes from the music, so fresh , warm and charming (when it isn´t Masonic...) that most people tend to disregard that it is an unequalled paradigm of contradictions. In fact, it is one of the poorest and most ridiculous libretti in the whole repertoire (the conductor on this occasion, Hernán Schvartzman, is curiously of quite the opposite view!).

            Just a few eminent contradictions: Sarastro is presumably the good chap but has the hideous Monostatos as his servant; and the high priest of Isis and Osiris spews out completely misogynistic and racist views in the name of Masonic love to all...The Queen of Night is supposed to be evil but both the three Ladies and the Three Genii are her emissaries and are those that give Tamino and  Papageno respectively "the magic flute" that will enable him to pass the trials of fire and water and become an initiate in Sarastro´s temple, and the little bells (Glockenspiel) that will bring  Papagena to the bird catcher. Add to it intents of murder and suicide and the whole thing is preposterous to say the least. But Papageno, the "Natur Mensch", "the man of nature" that captures birds for the Queen (Schikaneder´s role), represents Mozart´s marvelous "tour de force" of creating the most lovable musical portrait. Tamino is steadfast and noble, and Pamina veers between ecstasy and tragedy. The enemies (the Queen and Sarastro) are completely unilateral in their feelings. And the priests are a solemn bore, sad propaganda for the Viennese Masonry of that time.

             In frequent adaptations (condensed) this Singspiel is put on (even with puppets) as a children´s opera, but it isn´t. Its funny moments need a very exact touch to work, and the best way to approach it is to stress the fairy tale aspects (the Flute aria attracting the animals, the Genii, Papageno), whilst the Masonic moments must –against some of its text- be given dignity. In truth, Mozart´s other Singspiel is much better contrived: the rescue opera "Die Entführung aus dem Serail" ("The Abduction from the seraglio") works well.

            This year Juventus Lyrica has a short and hackneyed programme: just "The Magic Flute", "The Barber of Seville" and "La Boheme". I was told that there are money troubles and thus they go for surefire hits. I also blame the public that seems unable to discriminate and always wants to see the same things; that lack of curiosity kills culture by limiting opera to a dozen choices out of thousands.

            This "Magic Flute" will be remembered musically for two able interpreters: Santiago Bürgi´s Tamino was sung with quality of timbre and fine line, and a new name, Laura Pisani, was notably adept as the Queen, for she solved most intricacies and gave character to the part. I will also remember it for the weakest Papageno in my experience. Gabriel Carasso, also new, has practically no voice and his interpretation was primitive. It´s a sad thing that the worst minute of his Papageno was applauded mightily (Papageno as a drunkard). Sonia Stelman, an excellent Zerlina and Despina, lacks the creaminess and volume a Pamina requires, although she is very musical. Oreste Chlopecki is low on presence and limited in vocal range as Sarastro. The Ladies were good and mutually in tune: Sabrina Cirera, Mariana Carnovali and Verónica Canaves. Patricio Oliveira, who was a first-rate Pedrillo in "Abduction...", wildly exaggerated his Monostatos and disregarded the musical accuracy Mozart always needs. Maximiliano Michailovsky was correct as the Orator ("Sprecher"); he also sang with Cristian Taleb the Men in Arms. Very nice the Genii: Luciana Piovan, Rebeca Nomberto and Julieta Cao. Cintia Verna, replacing Laura Penchi as Papagena, sang shrilly.

            Schvartzman, an Argentine working at The Hague, this year didn´t mix artists from that Dutch city´s Royal Conservatory with compatriots active here (as he did in Mozart/Da Ponte operas in past seasons); this season the competent 38-piece orchestra was almost totally made up of Argentines. The conductor opted for fast tempi kept with a good pulse generally; there were some mistakes, and I deeply disliked the disfiguring of the second Papageno song, where the cunning Mozart variation of each couplet was utterly ruined by making the orchestra "play drunk". The clean-sounding Chorus (also 38) was prepared by Hernán Sánchez Arteaga.

            Last year I was impressed by María Jaunarena´s production of Britten´s "The Turn of the Screw". I liked this "Magic Flute" a good deal less. She also did the costume designs. Her stage and lighting designer was Gonzalo Córdova. No less than eight people handled the excessive sound effects that often masked Mozart´s music. There was good and bad in this production. A few instances. Good: the simple but effective structure that Tamino and Pamina thread during the trials of fire and water; the rapport between the artists; the costumes of the Ladies and the Queen. Bad: the snake shouldn´t reach Tamino; the bicycles of the Genii; to have the Queen of Night appear in a blaze of light; the whole concept of Papageno.  I´ve seen worse and I´ve seen much better.

For Buenos Aires Herald