ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
PERFORMER: Eva Mei, Rainer Trost, Markus John, Kurt Rydl; Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Chorus & Orchestra/Zubin Mehta; dir. Massimo Teoldi (Florence, 2002)
CATALOGUE NO: DV-OPEADS
Did Emperor Joseph really remark, after the 1782 Vienna Entführung premiere, ‘Too beautiful for our ears, my dear Mozart, and monstrous many notes’? Probably not; but the observation is astute, which is why the anecdote gets regularly repeated. There’s a discernible imbalance between the opera’s slight subject matter and the sheer splendour of its score. In every performance of Entführung there are problems of scale to be addressed – the comedy-drama needs to be kept intimate, the overflowing musical abundance conveyed.
This enjoyable production from the 2002 Florence Maggio Musicale solves the problem. The Turkish delight designs give pleasure, the daffy aspects of the comedy are not shirked and the Singspiel plot mechanisms are treated both faithfully and with gentle irony. But the emotional depths of the music find full reflection on stage. The camera highlights the detailed responsiveness of the ensemble, and it certainly helps that the Selim (Markus John), Konstanze (Eva Mei) and Belmonte (Rainer Trost) are such warmly expressive, giving actors.
The Italian Mei, capable of brilliant glitter and quiet melancholy, is vocally the pick of the cast. The rest, sympathetic and practised Mozartians all, reveal passing flaws – Kurt Rydl, the very funny Osmin, is apt to bellow, wobble and fake low-lying phrases, and Trost’s top notes can harden – although they are minimised by the charm and vitality of the whole. Zubin Mehta, long an enthusiast for this opera, conducts it lovingly, if at times a bit plumply. The film director’s penchant for leaving the stage to seek him out in the pit is an irritation; so is the feeble TDK booklet material. Otherwise, recommended. Max Loppert