A setting according to Mozart’s original intentions? What heresy!
MOZART: Die Entfuhrung aus den Serail [The Abduction from the Seraglio] (complete opera), Blu-ray (2015)
Performers: Sally Matthews (Konstanze)/ Edgaras Montvidas (Belmonte)/ Tobias Kehrer (Osmin)/ Mari Eriksmoen (Blonde)/ Brenden Gunnell (Pedrillo)/ Franck Saurel (Pasha Selim)/ The Glyndebourne Chorus/ Orch. of the Age of Enlightenment/ Robin Ticciati
Producer: George Bruell
Director: David McVicar
Studio: Opus Arte Glyndebourne OABD7204D [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 1080i HD, 16:9 for widescreen, color
Audio: PCM 2.1, DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: German, English, French, Japanese, Korean
No region code
Extras: Concept, Craft & Collaboration: The Visual Story and a cast gallery (12 min.)
Length: 168 min.
I must confess to being washed with refreshment at seeing an Entfuhrung staged at the actual time Mozart indicated—what a concept! It makes most of the modern stagings seem rather simplistic and silly, which of course is what most of them are! This idea that times and dates must be updated to speak to confused and stupid modern mankind is hopefully becoming passé, returning the brilliance and importance of Mozart’s message back to his original concept. After all, Entfuhrung is not actually intended to give a “realistic” account of Muslim Turkey, and even the Pasha, being a convert, is only partially authentic. Instead, Mozart offers a thoroughly “Viennese” view and fascination of the forces that threatened, only a short time earlier, the very existence of this society. So, it must be admitted, that it is also a rather “safe” view, but Mozart uses this safety to explore his greater Masonic ideals of brotherhood and peace, rewriting history for the sake of his viewers in a small way, in order to put the concepts not in the mouths of the formerly assaulted Viennese, but in the tolerance of the assaulter.
It’s a brilliant conception that allows a would-be comedy to provoke some serious thought, as all of Mozart’s operas do, and its impact is even more profound by allowing the work to play out in Mozart’s designated time period. Of course, Mozart, who seems to always get slapped for supposed misogynistic ideas in operas like Magic Flute—mistakenly—also allows us two divergent views of female approaches to difficult situations. Konstanze, solidly portrayed by Sally Matthews, doesn’t disguise her temptations to give in to the Pasha’s advances, but remains firm in her resolve and dignity. Blonde, on the other hand, actually finds herself in a much more dangerous situation in that she has been given as a slave to the incorrigible Osmin—who is actually the heart of this opera in many ways, and spectacularly sung and acted by Tobias Kehrer—but puts on a proto-feminist demeanor that thwarts and even attacks his overtures, with all the danger inherent in this position. Both make the main men in this work, Belmonte and his servant Pedrillo, somewhat less significant in terms of characterization and drama, and Mozart’s music for each fails to upstage the girls. Pedrillo does serve as the clownish comic relief, and Brenden Gunnell plays this well, while the Belmonte of Edgaras Montvidas is a little bland and colorless.
Actor Franck Saurel has the measure of the songless part of Pasha Selim, but his characterization seems spot on, a progress of understanding from despotic and lustful ruler to one of benign and compassionate overseer by the end. The conducting of Robin Ticciati is alert and adaptive, avoiding mania and frenzy, a modern temptation in this piece. The OAE has always been one of the more gracious period ensembles, and they remain so here. Sets are colorful and gorgeously transparent, while the sound is nicely balanced and captured, as are most of the Glyndebourne performances. The singing is generally highly competent if not always the best available, and there is little to dislike in this admirable issue.