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Der Stein der Weisen review at Garsington Oxfordshire

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The other composers involved in this joint project of 1790 – now forgotten names like Johann Baptist Henneberg, Franz Xaver Gerl and Benedikt Schack – wrote a good deal more of the score than Mozart, who only contributed a couple of short numbers. Even these are no great shakes, and the remainder ranges from the respectable to the commonplace. Conductor Steuart Bedford has drafted in more Mozart from elsewhere to provide some stiffening.

But the fact is that The Philosopher’s Stone, to a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder – who also wrote that for The Magic Flute a year later, and left his musical stamp on this score too – is an interesting musicological discovery rather than a worthwhile stage piece, and though Garsington shows initiative in offering it for the Mozart anniversary, its pantomimic fantasy plot falls far short of The Magic Flute and the music simply cannot compete.

The company does it very decently, with director John Cox and designer Peter Ruthven Hall presenting its narrative clearly and with old-fashioned craftsmanship. Bedford leads a solid musical performance, and the cast acquit themselves well, with strong standouts from Leigh Melrose’s Lubano, Damian Thantrey’s Sadik and Michael Druiett’s rousing villain, Eutifronte. Amy Freston has a mixed night as Nadine and Iain Paton struggles a bit with Astromonte’s coloratura. But we’re unlikely to see it again until the next big Mozart anniversary in 2056.

Production Information

Garsington, Oxfordshire, June 27, 29, July 2, 4, 6, 8, 10

Composer
Mozart and others
Director
John Cox
Producer
Garsington Opera
Cast includes
Damian Thantrey, Amy Freston, Ashley Catling, Leigh Melrose, Teuta Koco, Iain Paton
Running time
4hrs 15mins (including dinner interval)
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