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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
The Abduction from the Seraglio, a German Singspiel in 3 Acts (1782)
New staging by the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

Bassa Selim: Markus John
Konstanze: Eva Mei
Blonde: Patrizia Ciofi
Belmonte: Rainer Trost
Pedrillo: Mehrzad Montazeri
Osmin: Kurt Rydl
Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Zubin Mehta
Chorus Master: Jose Luis Basso
Costumes Designer: Catherine Voeffray
Lighting: Jacques Battocletti
Stage Director: Massimo Teoldi
Scene: Elke Gramss
Set Designer: Christoph Wagenknecht
Recorded at the Teatro della Pergola, Florence, May 2002
PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1. Aspect Ratio 16:9. Region Code 0. PAL.
Subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian.
TDK DVD DV-OPEADS [136 mins]

There are nice wobbly sets at the start of this Florentine production, making it obvious we are in for proper theatre, and all the better for it. The scenery at the start consists of large hangings covered in oriental decorations as befits this exotic story set in the mysterious East - Turkey actually. There is some stage fun in the form of Osmin feeding his crocodile and during the production this beasty returns to terrorise various characters. Nicely done and good stage business. The scenery changes appropriately for the plot and I was relieved to see not one great coat or machine gun, clearly no ex-Eastern Bloc directors were involved in this production. It is played for all it is worth; and Die Entführung is worth a great deal.

Belmonte’s first aria, sung by tenor Rainer Trost, is really excellent. It confirms what the overture had already suggested, that this was going to be good listening as well as good viewing. Mehta’s orchestra plays crisply with some plainly "authentic" touches like a comparative freedom from vibrato. This does not pretend to be an authentic production à la Drottningholm but it is played throughout with a liveliness that puts a smile on one’s face. Constanza (Eva Mei) seems a touch mature at first but soon had me convinced that she was the passionate and wronged woman of virtue that Bretzner’s libretto suggests. Blonde (the striking Patrizia Ciofi) makes a great contrast, as she should, and enjoys a fine scene with Osmin ( Kurt Rydl) at the start of Act 2. Kurt Rydl throws his whole considerable weight into the role of the wicked Osmin and hams it wonderfully, especially at the end of the opera where his chance of revenge is taken away by the noble Pasha Selim. By the time we reach Constanza’s lovely aria bemoaning the loss of her love Belmonte, indeed love in general, this listener was absolutely hooked.

I mentioned earlier the orchestral strings. Their colleagues in the wind section come into their own in the scene between Selim and Constanza where she declares her willingness to take any dreadful torture for the sake of her true love. The accompaniment from solo violin, flute, cello and oboe is quite lovely, and what magnificent Mozart this scene is!

Some technical issues last. The widescreen picture is fine and the camera work unobtrusive. I reviewed using the excellent Dolby Digital soundtrack. There are some microphone problems derived from filming a live performance; for example Osmin seems to disappear from the sound picture for odd moments in Act 3. There are also one or two errors in the subtitling. Don’t let any of these put you off. It is my job to be critical and despite these problems I loved this DVD. It resurrected my enthusiasm for this, the second opera I ever saw. Thank you the Teatro della Pergola for a lovely evening out!

Dave Billinge

see also review by Tony Haywood

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