The Met is on Broadway, if twenty or so blocks north of the eponymous theater district. And as Mussorgsky or Rimsky-Korsakov can turn up a Russian-flavored audience, so too does a new Julie Taymor production -- with attendant press hype -- bring Lion King fans and buzz followers uptown. Especially when it's of Die Zauberflöte, a traditional irregular-operagoer's-favorite.
But this new "Broadway" audience makes the thing work. The disjointed disappointment -- with one magnificent star turn -- that played to less-than-full houses in the fall has become, before this public's generous and expectant gaze, wholly and unapologetically what it is: a grand feast for the senses. Not least on the audience scorecard was (seriously) its more-extended-than-usual applause between scenes, which does much to cover the extended stage-business setup and the creaking of that unrenovated Met turntable. But more important was its expectation -- of diverting, sensual spectacle -- the thing, it turns out, this Flute was made to fulfil.
So even subtraction of the fall run's best element may've made the spring run more enjoyable. Dorothea Röschmann, who cancelled all spring appearances to have a child, is an singular artist, extraordinarily vivid in both voice and character. In fact, the undercurrent of deep feeling in her work is so intense that it seems to demand a broader span than what the German lyric soprano repertoire -- great as it is, and great as she is in it -- offers. (Ariadne's Composer would be something, if houses didn't oddly think it a mezzo part.) The more reason she sings lieder, I suppose.
Debutante Lisa Milne, who has a strong silvery-clear instrument which I'd love to hear again, inspires no such thoughts. But this fits: in the fall, Röschmann suggested much that the rest of the production couldn't deliver. Now, in an overhauled cast with, inter alia, both René Pape and Kurt Moll, production and cast deliver one thing very well. Even Matthias Goerne mostly just contributes his beautiful baritone sound.
The production is pretty and, in Taymor's touches, occasionally striking, but unlike the last extraordinarily beautiful thing on the Met stage -- Wernicke's Frau ohne Schatten, which seems to have been an influence here -- there's not much else to it. Expect this and be happy.
Incidentally, I'd be thrilled to hear Queen of the Night Erika Miklósa in a real part. Nothing chirpy, shrill, or two-dimensional about her singing in the least.