On Monday, I saw the Metropolitan Opera's first performance of the season of Die Zauberflöte. It was an evening of beautiful singing, amusing comedy, affecting pathos, and flamboyant visual effects.

Ana Durlovski (The Queen of the Night) © Marty Sohl | Metropolitan Opera
Ana Durlovski (The Queen of the Night)
© Marty Sohl | Metropolitan Opera

The night's debut artist was Ana Durlovski as the Queen of the Night. Hers was a Queen of absolute confidence and artistry. This was no surprise, considering she has sung this role at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, La Scala and other impressive venues. Her singing was secure and warm throughout her very wide range – no metal-toned Queen she! She held onto the single high F in “O zittre nicht” for a moment, relishing its power and its stunning effect. “Der hölle Rache” was equally impressive for its accuracy and its wrath. Ms Durlovski deserved the audience's loud ovation at the curtain call.

Pretty Yende (Pamina) and Toby Spence (Tamino) © Marty Sohl | Metropolitan Opera
Pretty Yende (Pamina) and Toby Spence (Tamino)
© Marty Sohl | Metropolitan Opera

Pretty Yende was a beautiful Pamina. Her singing sounds warm and easy throughout, and she gave Pamina a spunk that made us forgive her self-indulgent behavior in the second act. “Ach, ich fühl's” was heart wrenching in its longing and pain.

I've long been a fan of Toby Spence, and was quite pleased to hear his Tamino. His is a light and bright tenor voice, with a little more weight than a tenorino or Spieltenor. It is perfectly suited to Mozart roles. Markus Werba was a delightfully childish Papageno, a wonderful contrast to Tamino's noble bearing, and sang the role quite capably. René Pape is the veteran of the cast, having sung almost 200 performances at the Met. His Sarastro is a delight, rich in sound, dignity, and warmth of character.

Ryan McKinny's Speaker; the three ladies of Amy Shoremount-Obra (also a debut), Renée Tatum, and Margaret Lattimore; and Ashley Emerson's Papagena also deserve praise. Conductor Adam Fischer elicited fine phrasing from singers and orchestra, but there were a few ragged spots when the pit and the stage were not in sync.

© Marty Sohl | Metropolitan Opera
© Marty Sohl | Metropolitan Opera

I had never seen Julie Taymor's 2004 production of Die Zauberflöte. Sets are by George Tsypin, costumes by Ms Taymor, lighting by Donald Holder, with puppets by Ms Taymor and Michael Curry, choreography by Mark Dendy. The stage director is David Kneuss. I can see why the abridged English-language version of this production is very popular with children. I'd read mixed reviews of the original run and the various revivals, and in fact my own impression is mixed. Although I liked most of the costumes, I didn't quite get the flag-show effect from the wings on Queen of the Night's gown (actually not part of the gown, but fabric on rods operated by dancers in black), and the banners trailing from her headdress. Tamino's Calaf-like get-up didn't charm me, either. The abundant puppets, large and small, were brilliant in effect, but these effects became tiresome as the evening wore on. They became distracting. 

In the end, the singing outweighed sensory fatigue from the relentlessly clever visual effects, and for that reason I would recommend this show.