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MOZART IN TURKEY
(Die Entführung aus dem Serail)
Belmonte (Tenor) Paul Groves
Konstanze (Soprano) Yelda Kodalli
Blonde (Soprano) Désirée Rancatore
Pedrillo (Tenor) Lynton Atkinson
Osmin (Bass) Peter Rose
Pasha Selim (Speaker) Oliver Tobias
Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Choir/Sir Charles Mackerras
Opera directed and filmed by Elijah Moshinsky
Film produced and directed by Mick Csáky
The opera highlights can be played as a special feature, lasting 64 minutes.
DVD Opus Arte OA0891D [88'04"]

 

Well now, here's an intriguing disc; one-third documentary and two-thirds filmed opera performed in the Harem of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The setting is marvellous, with corridors, rooms and passages decked in the opulence and motifs of the Ottoman Empire. The outside gardens are beautiful with wonderful views of the Palace, whilst from its high situation there are dramatic pictures of the Bosphorus and over Istanbul. The only jar is seeing modern container ships and tankers plying their trade along the waterway, which is at variance with Mozart's music.

The documentary part of the film concentrates on the dramatic production of the opera and also gives a historical overview to Mozart's life at the time. For instance, the role of Konstanze is discussed in relevance to her future as the wife of Wolfgang; it is of course the only time the name was featured in any of Mozart's operas, and it is tempting to presume that the inclusion of her name was due to the romantic attachment (they were not even engaged at this time). Mozart had also just struck out on his own, having procured a dismissal from the service of the archbishop of Vienna, and he was also struggling to assert himself against the overbearing relationship of his father. Die Entführung was Mozart's most successful opera, and he certainly gained much needed income for several years to come. The other interesting fact is that Mozart did not actually visit Turkey, despite the influence the music of that country had upon him. It is certainly an interesting and fascinating feature of this production to be able to see the development of the opera in progress, and of course the breadth and depth of setting could never be matched in the theatre.

The musical part is set out in fourteen "highlights" with spoken dialogue in between as is the manner in the opera or Singspiel which art form Mozart was responsible for creating. The soloists are all excellent and the two sopranos are particularly well suited to their roles, with virtually vibrato-free voices, and Yelda Kodalli in particular relishes in the coloratura passages of her part. Peter Rose is also imposing as the janissary to Pasha Selim with a rich full voice and good stage presence. Oliver Tobias as Pasha Selim has only a speaking role, but brings dignity and gravitas to the part. Paul Groves I am afraid I found wooden in his actions, although he has a natural light and pleasant tenor voice. Pedrillo, played by Lynton Atkinson, did not feature enough in the highlights to form a critical appraisal, although where he did appear the outcome was satisfactory.

The booklet gives a reasonable description of the plot of the opera, but no libretti. There are subtitles on the screen which on the whole are adequate. There is one glaring mistake in the text however where in Act III it states that the singing of Pedrillo awakens Osmin; it is very obvious in the film that it is the barking of the palace dogs which is responsible for rousing him.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra have made numerous recordings with Mackerras, particularly of the Mozart symphonies, and play well with commendable lightness and flair.

As a production this disc gives a very reasonable synopsis of the whole; it would be nice to think that a DVD of the whole opera was in preparation. Incidentally, I note that a CD version of this performance already exists on Telarc CD80544, recorded in 1999; no dates are given for when the film was made.

John Portwood



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