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Mozart, Die Entführung aus dem Serail: Soloists, Orquestra Simfònica i Cor del Gran Teatre del Liceu. Conductor: Ivor Bolton. Gran Teatre del Liceu de Barcelona. 21 and 22.2010. (JMI)


Production from Brussels'  Theatre de la Monnaie and Oper Frankfurt.
Director: Christof Loy.

Sets and Costumes: Herbert Murauer.

Lighting: Olaf Winter.


Selim: Christoph Quest.

Konstanze: Diana Damrau/Agneta Eichenholz.

Belmonte: Christoph Strehl/ Pavol Breslik.

Osmin: Franz-Josef Selig/Jaco Huijpen.

Blonde: Olga Peretyatko/Hendrickje Van Kerckhove.

Pedrillo: Norbert Ernst/Peter Marsh.

Production Picture © C. Antoni Bofill


Among the operas that Mozart wrote after 1780, surely The Abduction from the Seraglio and La Clemenza de Tito are the least performed. The reason for this probably has to do in the case of the first mentioned one with the fact of it being a true Singspiel. I know the same is also true for The Magic Flute, but the musical quality of The Seraglio is not the same, nor is the libretto.

The production chosen by the  Liceu for this Seraglio, absent from this theatre for the last 26 years, had Christof Loy’s signature on it and was premiered in Brussels in 1999, was also revived there later and had other successive performances in Frankfurt. I confess that my recent experiences with Christof Loy have not been very positive, since his recent trend has been towards ultra minimalism, not to say nihilism. But the first thing that called my attention in this production is that it not a true minimalist work, probably due to its age.

Christof Loy’s direction felt rather patchy to me, mixing up some good stage direction with two rather dubious production decisions. Firstly, he decided to offer the Singspiel in its entiety, complete with all of the original dialogs, because in his view that helps to better understand the drama between the characters. Perhaps he is right, but I do not think that the audience shared his point of view, since in non German - speaking countries I’d guess that public do not go to see this opera for its dialogs, but to enjoy the music: as a consequence of Mr. Loy’s decision, the show lasts 4 hours, which I think is more than excessive for this opera. Secondly, Christof Loy’s idea is that the two female characters hesitate between their original loves and their current attractions for Selim and Osmín, as they were in a kind of prelude to Così Fan Tutte. The idea seems interesting, but it has very little to do with the libretto. Konstanze does not hesitate at any time, even if at the end, she shows her gratitude to Pasha Selim. Similarly, Blondine is not at all attracted to Osmin, even if her love for Pedrillo is not particularly deep. More than once, then what we see on stage has little to do with what the text says and or with what Mozart’s music expresses.

The sets are fairly minimalist for Acts I and III, while Act II is quite attractive. Costumes are colourful and pleasant, with some remarkable lighting, particularly in Act III, the best part of the production for me, with nearly all the characters dressed in black and white. Worth mentioning too is the original way that Mr.Loy shows the Abduction scene, with stage and pit completely darkened and only some noises and light from lanterns on the stage. When the lights come back the quartet of Europeans is already seated facing an angry Osmin.

Musical direction was in the hands of Ivor Bolton. Keeping the inspiration, tension, and interest in a singspiel like this is difficult where the conductor has to spend as much time just looking at the stage as he does directing the orchestra and singers, but Mr Bolton’s reading was really first rate, both in the lighter moments and in the more dramatic ones. He achieved a remarkable performance from the Liceu orchestra.

Each time I have seen this opera on stage, I have realized how difficult casting the role of Konstanze really is, regularly wishing in the few last years to finally see Diana Damrau sing it. She is one of the very few sopranos who can manage the score properly and was wholly excellent, proving convincingly that for some time she really has been the only true Konstanze around anywhere. She was quite bright in that most difficult aria, "Martern aller Arten", though perhaps not with the almost insouciant facility of some three years ago. In the second cast we had Agneta Eichenhoz, who was a very decent interpreter on stage, although her voice does not have special beauty, with a high register which felt slightly shouted now and again, particularly in her last duet with Belmonte.

The young and attractive Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko made an outstanding Blondine, both as singer and actress: it is difficult to think of a better Blondine than hers. Belgian soprano Hendrickje Van Kerckhove came over as a kind of soubrette by comparison, much less interesting than Peretyatko.

Tenor Christoph Strehl was a Belmonte who went downhill as the performance progressed. He was at his best in the first Act, singing his two arias with good taste and a pleasant voice but by the opera’s second part he was short of flexibility needed for the agility required by Mozart. The Slovak tenor Pavol Breslik was very good in the second cast. His voice is something lighter than his colleague Strehl, but it is more even and he is very well suited to Mozart

Bass Franz-Josef Selig was a good Osmin, especially in the first part of the opera, but in the last act his voice sounded somewhat less healthy. His voice is nicely suited to the character, although I missed some of the sonorous deep notes that a great Osmin has. In the second cast we had Jaco Huijpen, who offered a good performance too. His voice is good in the middle, although less noble than Selig’s, and sadly, he was almost inaudible at the very bottom of the range.

Norbert Ernst was a good Pedrillo, with a voice not as light or small as we are used to for this character. By comparison Peter Marsh more traditional.

The theatre had a few empty seats and arias were applauded with modest enthusiasm. AT the final bows there was a warm reception for all of the artists, with sonorous cheers for Diana Damrau. Ivor Bolton and Olga Peretyatko were also cheered, as was Pavol Breslik in the second night.

José M Irurzun


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