Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on Blu-ray
MusicWeb International Recording of the Month
Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) is a three act opera Singspiel by W. A. Mozart. With libretto by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner, the plot follows the attempt of Belmonte and his servant Pedrillo to rescue his Konstanze from the seraglio of Pasha Selim. This production comes from the Glyndebourne Chorus, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenmnent conducted by Robin Ticciati. Director David McVicar has strived in this production to give an original-period version of the opera. The costuming from Vicki Mortimer and the sets add to the
dazzling performance. “Mesmerising, sensitive, at times troublingly erotic, the whole thing forces us to rethink a remarkable work. Outstanding.” (The Guardian)
Like most opera lovers I have my favourite composers and operas. High on my list are Verdi and Mozart works, the latter's Le nozze di Figaro, one of the greatest operatic stage works in many peoples opinion, and Verdi’s Don Carlo feature at the top of my list. However, in the case of both named composers there is other of their works that I love dearly which do not feature so regularly in recordings, or live in the theatre. In the Mozart oeuvre Die Entführung aus dem Serail, a title often shortened to Il Seraglio, the harem in translation, features highly. After some years of relative neglect, perhaps out of mistaken political correctness relating to the impact of Muslim fundamentalism, this work has returned to favour. It is defined as a singspiel, a work of musical numbers interspersed by spoken dialogue. Perhaps to get away from the traditional and any other sensitivities, this renaissance has led to some rather quirky productions including one set on The Orient Express; yes, a train for a harem, any gimmick is possible for some directors and designers. I could not imagine how it could work and it didn’t (see review). Similarly, Opera North treated the work as slapstick (see review). I go back to the early 1980s when Glyndebourne produced elegant sets by William Dudley alongside a touring cast that brought the best out of Mozart’s creation and whilst not shirking a coloured harem guard, Osmin, complete with curled toe shoes and fez. That production, and elegant sets, were caught on film at the main Glyndebourne Festival and is available on DVD in 4:3 aspect (review). I found much to commend in a later production from Florence in 2002 by Eike Gramss with sets by Christoph Wagenknech and costumes by Catherine Voeffray. Issued in 2011 in now standard 16:9 screen aspect it impressed me to the extent that I gave it the imprimateur of a DVD of the month (review). Its timing of 136 minutes gives a clue to limitations that include severe slashing of much of the spoken dialogue. I had experience of a full dialogue version in a BluRay of Christof Loy’s minimalist production filmed in the Gran Teatre de Liceu in July 2011. However, I did not like the modern dress and minimalist set (review). Aware of this limitation, when I heard that David McVicar, a favourite director of mine, was to direct a new production at Glyndebourne in 2015, with the dialogue complete, I was more than a little interested to the extent I recently bought a copy of the DVD and which I review here.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail was a groundbreaking work for Mozart. As an appendix, I recount the circumstances of the work’s creation and how it was a watershed in his compositional life. Meanwhile, let me state quite clearly that this performance and staging, complete with all the spoken dialogue, is the best I have seen and heard of this work in a long life of opera going. McVicar and his designer update the work as far as Mozart’s time, thus allowing a traditionalist staging and which is particularly opulent and apt. The characters are all in appropriate costume and the sets represent what we might expect of a seraglio and not far from that to be seen today in Granada, Spain, and built during the Ottoman Empire.
One of the consequences of the inclusion of all the spoken dialogue is the importance of Franck Saurel, the actor who speaks the role of Pasha Selim. He does so with his vocal nuance and body language matching his acting, an altogether outstanding portrayal and indicating something as to why there are times when Sally Matthews’ Konstanze’s response to him is equivocal in respect of his sexual impact on her. However, she maintains her dignity and faithfulness to her lover, singing and acting outstandingly in all respects. She excels in the long recit and aria Traurigheit ward mir zum Lose and Martern aller Arten of Act I and shows her doughty character vocally in the second act in particular. As her suitor, who braves the pasha’s domain in pursuit of her, Edgaras Montvidas acts the somewhat starchy character well whilst not quite matching her in ideal vocal mellifluousness. The other two Europeans captured and working in the Pashas palace benefit from two excellent portrayals and performances from Mari Eriksmoen as Blonde, Konstanze’s maid, and the superb acting of Brenden Gunnell as her would be lover. The manner of his acting, particularly when seeking to spike Osmin’s ardour for Blonde, are quite magnificent. Then there is Osmin himself. Very often the role is somewhat marred by slapstick. Here, Tobias Kehrer creates a funny, but fearful character, such as Mozart must have had in mind for the role. The phrases roll off his tongue as he relishes the vocal and acted demands made on him.
To conclude my enthusiasm and pleasure at this issue, I find the conducting by the flying fingers of conductor Robin Ticciati, and his period band forces, to be ideal accompanists throughout, as well as bringing an appropriate verve and vitality to the proceedings.
– MusicWeb International (Robert J. Farr) Read less
Works on This Recording
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K 384 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mari Eriksmoen (Soprano),
Brenden Gunnell (Tenor),
Edgaras Montvidas (Tenor),
Tobias Kehrer (Bass),
Sally Matthews (Soprano),
Jonas Cradock (Tenor),
Franck Saurel (Voice)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment,
Written: 1782; Vienna, Austria
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