- Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), opera, K. 620
Back when such things really mattered, listeners would angrily argue the merits of Karl Böhm's two recordings of Mozart's "Die Zauberflöte." Was his best "Zauberflöte" his 1955 Decca recording -- the recording reissued here in French Decca's Rouge Opera series -- or his 1963 Deutsche Grammophon recording? There were powerful arguments either way. Böhm's 1955 recording had the lyric Léopold Simoneau as Tamino, while his 64 recording had the heroic Fritz Wunderlich. His 55 recording had the sweet Hilde Gueden as Pamina while his 1964 recording had the sexy Evelyn Lear. His 1955 recording had the warm Walter Berry as Papageno, while his 1964 recording had the wry Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. His 1955 recording had the burly Kurt Böhme as Sarastro, while his 1964 recording had the bottomless Franz Crass. And his 1955 recording had the unbelievably accurate Wilma Lipp as the Queen of the Night, while his 1964 recording had the incredibly agile Robert Peters. Both Böhm's orchestras were excellent: 1955's rich and lush Vienna Philharmonic seemed more gracious, while 1964's clean and strong Berlin Philharmonic seemed more elegant. And both interpretations plumb the depths of Mozart's final stage work in much the same way -- whether in the Austrian capital or the German capital, Böhm performed "Die Zauberflöte" as a sublime work of transcendent humanity. In the end, it comes down to sound. Decca's 1955 sound is clear and evocative; DG's 1964 sound is crisp and vivid. And, back when things really mattered, contemporary listeners will agree after hearing both that, whichever recording one may prefer, the only answer is both.