While Kiri Te Kanawa was still preparing for that career-defining debut as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, she made her first Mozart disc under Colin Davis: a collection of sacred music, including the Solemn Vespers, KV 339, with its serene setting of ‘Laudate Dominum’, and Exsultate, jubilate. The Countess became the singer’s calling-card, and she repeated the role immediately in San Francisco and at Glyndebourne. The thwarted Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni followed, again under Davis at Covent Garden, before Kiri took her Countess to the Met in New York in February 1976, and sang her first Fiordiligi in Paris, in a production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. The Paris Opera was also the location of Kiri’s debut as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte in 1977. Her leap into superstardom came when she sang at the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana in July 1981…
Die Zauberflöte is the artistic and philosophical testament of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who died a few weeks after the work’s première in Vienna. Intertwining music of awesome purity and beauty with the conventions of the singspiel - a popular form of musical comedy – Mozart’s final operatic legacy to the world explores Man’s search for the truth and his confusion between the forces of dark and light and the final utopian resolution of seemingly irreconcilable elements. Because of the opera’s relationship to freemasonry, commentators have identified Tamino with the Emperor Joseph II, Pamina with the Austrian people, Sarastro with Ignaz von Born, Monostatos with the clergy and the Queen of the Night with the Empress Maria Theresa. Whichever level one approaches Die Zauberflöte on, it remains a great work in the spirit of the Enlightenment as well as a delightful fairy-tale. Nothing is so simple as to be absolutely clear-cut. In life, the serious and the comic often intermingle in a way that is disconcerting. In Die Zauberflöte, Mozart succeeds in combining these two elements in a way which has never been surpassed. The light and vibrant presentation of the Scandinavian cast - internationally renowned bass Lászlo Polgár is the only non-Scandinavian soloists – the authentic staging and the lean orchestra sound conducted by the illustrious Arnold Östman makes this performance definitely one of the best Zauberflöte-performances of the 20th century.
Mozart was always an important and regular feature of Solti's career as conductor in the opera house and concert hall as well as in the recording studio and also as a pianist, and at the start of his career he participated in performances of Die Zauberflöte at Salzburg under Toscanini in 1937. Solti conducted Die Zauberflöte himself at Salzburg in 1956 to mark the 200th anniversary of Mozart's birth and again in 1991 when he made his second recording of the opera. Solti's first recording of Die Zauberflöte was made in Vienna in 1969 and was his first complete Mozart opera recording.
One of the giants of the historically informed performance world needs little introduction; nor indeed his sympathy to Mozart’s oeuvre as already demonstrated in recordings of the three da Ponte operas that have met with wide acclaim and many awards for their closely observed intimacy, their sense of fun and drama and their well-chosen casts, at one with Kuijken’s vision of these jewels of human and music drama.
…There are five fabulous Schubert recordings, including an edge-of-your-seat performance of Erlkönig; five marvelous Schumann recordings, including a catch-in-your-throat performance of Mondnacht; three arias from Bach's Johannes-Passion, featuring a heartbreaking "Mein teuer Heiland"; and seven excepts from several Mozart operas, ending with a delightfully charming performance of the duet from Die Zauberflöte with Quasthoff as Papageno and Montserrat Caballé as Papagena. Listeners already familiar with the German singer's lustrous voice, robust tone, agile delivery, and warm-hearted interpretations will need no more encouragement, unless they already have the original RCA recordings.