Kathryn Lewek marked her 50th performance of Die Königin der Nacht in Mozart's "Die Zauberflöte" with The Metropolitan Opera with rave reviews and much fanfare.
Below is a sampling of the press:
"The Queen of the Night, her glory reduced to a glimmer, is the white dwarf to Sarastro’s towering sun, a fabulous geriatric in a spangly dress who cannot move without assistance. She draws on reserves of finite, fantastic power, and, in this regard, the soprano Kathryn Lewek was utterly enthralling, emitting richly glowing bursts of notes like a collapsing star in “O zittre nicht.” She careered around the stage in a wheelchair during “Der Hölle Rache,” bringing thrilling drama to a coloratura showpiece so fiendish that sopranos are lucky to get through it when they’re standing stock still." — The New York Times
"Kathryn Lewek has become the Met Opera’s go-to Queen of the Night. Of her 44 performances at the Met to date, all of them have been in this role. And while it is easy to play this “villain” in one dimension, Lewek always seems to find shades and colors to explore. This is perhaps her most inspired turn to date. “O zittre nicht” was sung like a plea, full of sorrow and melancholy. Leaning into the Queen’s own frailty, you could feel the weight of the character in Lewek’s tender legato lines. Often, this is framed as a piece of trickery, the Queen emotionally manipulating Tamino into her bidding. But that wasn’t the case here with Lewek using the high-flying coloratura and the ascension up to that high F to express the pain and heartbreak the Queen is feeling. The final “auf ewig dein” were delivered with full throttle, furthering this emotional toll and coalescing beautifully with Lewek’s Queen collapsing into her wheelchair, completely spent. You can’t help but empathize for the Queen here, furthering the emotional conflict that you feel throughout.
And that was furthered in the second Act during her big scene with Pamina. Lewek’s approach here was full on aggressive and furious as she instructed her daughter to take the knife and kill Sarastro. This aria is often played for its fury and anger to thrilling effect. And Lewek incorporated that here, but she went even deeper. With the Queen repeatedly attempting to get up from her wheelchair, you could feel an internal tug-of-war between a woman trying to establish her power and control, but also feeling too weak and exhausted to continue fighting, the hope almost dashed out of her – if her daughter, her only hope, can’t save her, then it’s clear that she’s done for. And the resulting rage, frustration, and agony of all this could be felt in Lewek’s singing. This might be classical music and “proper Mozartian style” might call for restraint and certain polish, but it is also opera. And opera is always about messy human emotion. As such, there was something raw and primal about Lewek’s approach here to the aria, her voice weaponized with a razor’s edge as she threw off the high notes; it wasn’t always clean and not all the infamous high Fs came off spotless, but it was exciting and potent. There was aggressive accenting in the singing, but there was also a full-throated intensity in how she delivered those final lines “Hört, Rachegötter, hört der Mutter Schwur!” as if it hurt her to think it, much less sing it. The Queen of the Night thus became less a villain and more a tragic hero using her final card in a battle she knows she may never win. There was no surprise that the audience serenaded her with the longest ovation of the night. It was much deserved."
"Finally, there was the star-blazing Queen herself, soprano Kathryn Lewek, who could probably sing the Queen of the Night in her sleep. In this production, she is aged up with crone makeup and delivers a wonderfully physical performance as a frail, frightened woman whose only remaining power is her voice (which is agile as ever..." — The Observer
"As a wheelchair-bound Queen of the Night, soprano Kathryn Lewek took on her treacherous coloratura arias, “O zittre nicht” and “Der Hölle Rache” with intensity and flair. Instead of being cast into darkness at the end of the opera, as is done in most Flute stagings, she is reconciled with Sarastro.. . It is hard to imagine a more satisfying and magical operatic experience than this intriguing and inventive production, peopled by an outstanding cast and offering exquisite orchestral playing of some of the finest operatic music ever written."