Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail performed in Glyndebourne, 2015

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
PERFORMER: Sally Matthews, Edgaras Montvidas, Tobias Kehrer, Mari Eriksmoen, Brenden Gunnell, Franck Saurel; Glyndebourne Chorus; OAE/Robin Ticciati; dir. David McVicar (Glyndebourne, 2015)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: OA 1215 D; Blu-ray: OA 1216 D  

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Mozart’s grandfather Johann was four years old when the Turks attacked Vienna in 1683, and the disturbing echoes of that unsettling encounter linger on in his grandson’s Die Entführung (1782). The Muslim Osmin (Tobias Kehrer) is portrayed as a stereotypical villain, and the Pasha (Franck Saurel) exercises power over two European women (Konstanze/Sally Matthews and Blonde/Mari Eriksmoen) who must be rescued before the ‘violations’ of oriental sex and love can occur. 

The director David McVicar seeks (in our troubled times) to undermine these long-established stereotypes. He casts Osmin as a Caucasian and, to underline the ‘cultivation’ of the Pasha, he has him listening to (added) Mozartian music while conversing with Konstanze in Act I. (Quite how a taste for Western classical music might chime with current notions of the cultivation of a Muslim is not explained). A great bonus is that almost all of the long spoken text of this Singspiel is included to go alongside the music, and this adds much depth to the characters. McVicar also depicts a strongly ambiguous, even sexual relationship between the women and the ‘orientals’, and the brilliantly researched sets and costumes by Vicki Mortimer (which look their splendid best on Blu-ray), make this the most convincing dramaturgical presentation of the opera in recent times.

So the performers can act, but can they sing? Not quite so well is the general answer, though Kehrer is magnificent as Osmin, Gunnell is lyrical and alert as Pedrillo, and Eriksmoen steers a delicate path between the amusing and the musically ravishing. Konstanze and Belmonte take a while to warm up (they are at their best in Act III) and the Pasha is adept enough but lacks gravitas. The real star is the conductor, Robin Ticciati, whose mercurial energy gives us the most exciting orchestral reading since Solti’s 1987 version on Decca.

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Anthony Pryer