Sunday, 1 February 2015

Diana Damreau's Queen of the Night (Mozart's Magic Flute) - as an operatic performance, on a scale of one to ten, this one goes to eleven


Having just heard the first act Queen of the Night aria thrown-away by Wilma Lipp on the Karajan recording; I turned again to this simply wonderful, just perfect, acting-singing performance.

This astonishing aria - far superior to the more famous Die Holle Rache - combines cynical psychological realism, with beauty (this is Mozart), and hair-raising demonic venom.

The Queen of the Night is manipulating the ardent young hero Tamino to do her dirty work by an intoxicating mixture of covert sexuality and hammed-up sentimentality. I love the part when she sneaks a glance to check that her performance is having the desired effect.

Her hatred begins to consume her as she abandons the slow lyrical first part of the aria and launches into just about the best bit of coloratura writing ever; during which loses control, tries to get a grip, then becomes carried-away into a almost orgasmic fantasy of hatred and revenge. Meanwhile singing with incredible control, subtlety and power.

Thrilling and chilling. And as a live operatic performance, I don't think this can ever have been bettered, or ever could be. Matched, yes, perhaps - but of its kind this is as good as it is possible to be.