Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
PERFORMER: Christine Schäfer, Patricia Petibon, Ian Bostridge, Alan Ewing, Iain Paton; Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-25490-2
I sometimes feel a sneaking sympathy with the Emperor, if he really said of Die Entführung, ‘too many notes, my dear Mozart’. In the theatre, orchestral richness is not the problem it once seemed, but too many extended arias fail to advance the sluggish plot. Recordings allow more intimate appreciation, catered for here by Bostridge’s likeable word-centred approach to Belmonte. Schäfer is a matching light-toned Konstanze, ever elegant in stratospheric runs; they engage warmly in the final duet. The singers speak the dialogue, except for Petibon, whose delightfully sung Blonde’s speaking alter ego is curiously humourless. Ewing is a sterling Osmin in the comic mould which Mozart surely intended, complete with inauthentic bottom C in his first aria. The dialogue is severely reduced. Pedrillo’s serenade, sweetly sung by Iain Paton, is integral to the action of the elopement, but here runs uninterrupted for four stanzas (perhaps one too many: a few other numbers are harmlessly cut). Christie has thought through the tempi with care, and although Pedrillo’s aria risks seeming sluggish the faster speeds seem well judged. I found the orchestra occasionally backward relative to the voices, with even the piccolo occasionally lost, yet the voices also disappear in their lower registers. Those who dislike modern-style Mozart can safely be recommended Böhm on DG, with Augér and Schreier as Konstanze and Belmonte, and Kurt Moll as Osmin. Harnoncourt being too eccentric, the modern benchmark recording is Gardiner’s, with Orgonasova and Olsen as the lovers; but overall this attractive performance runs it close. Julian Rushton