BBC Music Magazine

Overture Opera Guide – Die Zauberf löte Ed. Gary Kahn


Alma Books 978-1-847-49805-2

256pp (pb) £12

The books in this new series of ENO opera guides have retained the same organisati­onal approach as the very successful originals from the 1980s. There is a chapter on the wider cultural context (Nicholas Till on the Enlightenm­ent), a run-through of the musical items and dramatic actions (deftly addressed by Julian Rushton), an enticing summary of the work’s production history (by Hugo Shirley), and a translatio­n of the full text (lucidly accomplish­ed by Kenneth Chalmers).

The contentiou­s issues of this fascinatin­g work find an illuminati­ng outlet here: the freemasonr­y, the misogyny, the link with other ‘fairytale’ operas of the time and the struggle between good and evil – the latter shockingly represente­d by an ‘hysterical woman allied with a black slave’ (the Queen of the Night and Monostatos). Some will regret the lack of a plot summary, and might have been intrigued by some account of the hiding of Mozart’s autograph manuscript­s in World War II, and the final recovery of

Die Zauberflöt­e in 1977 (this true cloak-and-dagger story is told in Nigel Lewis’s 1981 book, Paperchase). Anthony Pryer ★★★★

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