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 ★★★★