Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, singspiel in three acts, K.384 (1782)
Konstanze (soprano) – Eva Mei
Belmonte (tenor) – Rainer Trost
Osmin (bass) – Kurt Rydl
Blonde (soprano) – Patrizia Ciofi
Pedrillo (tenor) – Mehrzad Montazeri
Pasha Selim (speaker) – Markus John
Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Zubin Mehta
Recorded at the Teatro della Pergola, Florence, May 2002
Directed for the stage by Eike Gramms
Directed for television by George Blume
TDK Rai Trade DV-OPEADS 007905 [136 minutes]


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We all remember the scene in Amadeus: "Write us a proper German opera, Herr Mozart," says the Emperor, in a bid to break the monopoly of ‘Italian trinkets’. The result was indeed a truly German singspiel, but one laced with the craze sweeping Vienna at the time, for all things Turkish. In The Abduction from the Seraglio, Mozart was able to demonstrate how the great universal themes of love and forgiveness could be presented in a comic style that would appeal to the masses. It is something of a dry run for his last great operatic masterpiece, The Magic Flute.

This current production celebrates that very element of vaudeville, and one can imagine the composer himself loving it. It is conducted with great flair and ‘fizz’ by Zubin Mehta, whose association with the piece goes back nearly forty years. Indeed, anyone lucky enough to have his live Saltzburg recording of Seraglio from 1965 (featuring, among others, an incomparable Fritz Wunderlich) will know what to expect. Tempos may have eased a little, but as the Overture makes clear, on the right day Mehta can be as electrifying as anyone, and he drives his medium-sized modern instrument pit band with great exuberance and not a little panache.

The visuals are a treat. One suspects the director may have been influenced by Ingmar Bergman’s famous pantomime-style Magic Flute of a few years ago, or indeed the Twyla Tharp ‘authentic’ staging used in Amadeus. Whatever; the result is a riotously uplifting comic entertainment. We get the first hint during the Overture, when a toy ship sails shakily across the stage, to be followed by Belmonte in his little rowing boat with telescope. There is a huge Peter Pan-style crocodile, Osmin’s personal pet, which rears up every so often to the delighted giggles of the audience. The set consists of great sliding panels that shift position to provide an effective and seamless flow of stylized locations. They are heavily patterned with colourful squares and mosaics, giving an ever-present reminder of the Turkish theme. Costumes are appropriately flamboyant.

The vocal performances are also a delight. The two young male leads both look and sound the part. Yes, it is hard to get Wunderlich’s Belmonte out of one’s head (he also recorded the part for Jochum) but Rainer Trost has a pleasingly light, agile voice that is reminiscent of Leopold Simoneau, and he is an able, musical tenor. Of the women, I was taken by Patrizia Ciofi’s delightful Blonde, and wondered at first whether she shouldn’t have swapped parts with the rather matronly looking Konstanza of Eva Mei. That said, Mei is certainly on top of her fiendishly difficult part, and her gloriously sung ‘Martern aller Arten’ (a pre-Queen of the Night coloratura spectacular) is only marred by a tiresome series of bows to the audience afterwards. It’s a pity, because this is the only occasion in the production where this is allowed to happen, and it interrupts dramatic flow and character credibility.

Veteran Kurt Rydl enjoys himself as Osmin, but which bass wouldn’t? He milks every moment of ‘O, wie will ich triumphieren’ and steals most scenes shamelessly. All the spoken dialogue is included (as with the Glyndebourne Carmen, a welcome move that fleshes out many plot intricacies) and mention must be made of Markus John’s authoritative performance as Pasha Selim.

There are no extras, but very generous cueing, with 41 separate entry points. The booklet has a fairly perfunctory note and brief synopsis. Sound is good and camera work intelligent but not intrusive or fussy. The best news is that all two-and-a quarter hours are on one disc, so it makes an eminently sensible way to get the opera, given such first-rate singing and playing. Recommended.

Tony Haywood

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