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In this morning's New York Times, classical music critic Anthony Tommasini praised the performance of Die Zauberflöte that I saw at the Met Tuesday night:

The Queen of the Night . . . is a fiendishly difficult and dramatically exasperating role. It’s a crucial but short part. The maniacal Queen appears, mainly, to sing two show-stopping, blazingly brilliant arias.

As required, the German soprano Diana Damrau stopped the show twice on Tuesday night in the Metropolitan Opera’s production by Julie Taymor, with Kirill Petrenko conducting. Just three nights earlier she had sung the last of several performances as Pamina in the Met’s “Zauberflöte” run. Pamina is a very different vocal assignment, requiring lighter and more poignantly lyrical singing.

In her Act I recitative and aria the Queen of the Night persuades earnest Prince Tamino to rescue Pamina, her daughter, who is being held by the pontificating, all-powerful Sarastro, Priest of the Sun. Ms. Damrau had everything, including a penetrating sound — bright but never hard-edged — and ample coloratura technique to execute the virtuosic passagework. The way she handled the dramatic recitative before the aria was especially impressive; every phrase was delivered with a rich bloom that nearly masked the wily Queen’s manipulations.

In Act II, infuriated that Tamino and Pamina are won over by Sarastro to, you could say, the light side, the Queen appears before her daughter to sing “Der Hölle Rache,” the ultimate avenging mother’s aria. With the consent of Ms. Taymor, Ms. Damrau, a complete artist, restored to this scene the calculating spoken dialogue that had been cut. Having established the dramatic context, she proceeded to nail the treacherous aria.

When a soprano can toss off the aria’s fearsome passagework, capped by frequent leaps to high F, with the kind of command Ms. Damrau displayed, it makes the Queen seem chillingly demonic. How else to explain such ability? Ms. Damrau has said she will now retire the role, which makes these appearances even more noteworthy.


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