Great singing from Rydl and Erdmann especially and fine musical values, weird production values and staging
Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail is not one of my favourite Mozart operas, I do think Le Nozze Di Figaro, Don Giovanni and especially Cosi Fan Tutte have a stronger balance between comedy and drama, but I do still have a soft spot for me for its tuneful score and the characters. There are some great DVDs of this operas, my first choice being the Glyndebourne production with Valerie Masterson and Willard White, closely followed by the Salzburg production with Edita Gruberova and Martti Talvela. Unfortunately this 2008 production is not one of the greats.
Granted it is better than the awful 2006 Salzburg performance, as part of the Mozart 22 series, but it didn't entirely work for me. It does have its good points, more on the musical front than visually.
The orchestral playing is vigorous for the likes of Martern Aller Arten and Ha Wie Will Ich Triumphieren yet sensitive for Belmonte's arias and the recitatives. The conducting is firm and with an understanding for Mozart's style, balancing the orchestral textures very well. The chorus are balanced vocally and do their best to act animated, despite the fact that the staging doesn't do them many favours.
Kurt Rydl is an outstanding Osmin, the opera's villain. The voice may not be as focused as it was in the 80s and 90s, with a beat to it, but the low notes have sonority and the middle and higher notes show a rich tone. He is also very funny and intimidating as Osmin should be. Mojca Erdmann's Blonde is charming and pert, exuding a good deal of warmth and a brightly toned voice. Laura Aikin is much improved from her performance in Salzburg. Some of her colouratura is still a little acidic, but she is less awkward and more compelling as an actress and generally her singing's more even. Belmonte also sings beautifully, Pasha Selim shows dignity despite being saddled with some of the worst of the staging and Pedrillo is also solid.
Sadly, the musical values and singing are only one part to making an opera production work. And sadly, the visual side, every bit as important, fails. The costumes are jut weird, the air stewardess one of Blonde, Konstanze dressed as a Harem and Pasha Selim dressed in slacks and shoes that looks as though it's more at home on the shelf of a major clothing store. And this is made even more incongruous with Osmin in Turkish garb and the rest of the characters in Westrn style, it really confused me. The sets are pure tack of the highest order, they lack colour and it is very difficult to determine what time period was actually intended, to me it seemed like a mishmash.
The staging is also a mess. The collapsing scenery in the final act was supposed to symbolise something, but whatever it was I have no idea. As far as I know, it was just another meaningless stage trick. The sight of the guard in T shirt and jeans is one of the main reasons why I was confused as to the setting of this production. But this is nothing compared to Pasha Selim on the floor clinging to Konstanze's feet as well as pawing and groping and sniffing her. If this was meant to imply that Konstanze was madly in love with him or vice versa it completely escaped me anyhow.
When it comes to the technical values of the DVD, they manage to be mixed. The picture quality is great, and the video directing is decent. However the sound quality is not up to scratch, with an echo between dialogue and an imbalance between the orchestra and singers, often favouring the orchestra. Overall, musically great, visually disastrous.
4/10 Bethany Cox
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