Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791)
Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782)
Deon van der Walt (tenor) – Belmonte; Kurt Moll (bass) – Osmin; Lars Magnusson (tenor) – Pedrillo); Oliver Tobias (speaking part) – Pasha Selim; Inga Nielsen (soprano) – Konstanze; Lillian Watson (soprano) – Blonde; Kathleen Wilder, Karen Shelby, David Young, Donaldson Bell – Four solo voices
Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden/Georg Solti
Directed by Elijah Moshinsky; Scenery: Sidney Nolan and Timothy O’Brien; Costumes: Timothy O’Brien; Stage Lighting: Robert Bryan; Directed for video by Humphrey Burton
Filmed live at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 1988.
WARNER NVC ARTS 0630-18773-2 [approx. 142:00]

When the performance starts, Sir Georg makes a quick entrance in his usual energetic manner, gently smiling as though already anticipating what will take place on stage. The overture is vital, rhythmically alert and the maestro makes the most of the dynamic contrasts. In the lyrical middle section there is more warmth than in his LP/CD recording made a few years earlier – or is it just the visual impact that adds this extra feeling of cosiness?

When the colourful non-figurative curtain opens we at once share Sir Georg’s pleasure with the fanciful stage design: Pasha Selim’s palace to the right, looking just as we have always thought it would, judging from the fairytale picture books we read as children, and with a lovely garden surrounding it. In this setting the whole action takes place. Director Elijah Moshinsky has done an inspired and inspiring job with a lot of amusing details. The tragic side, represented by Belmonte and Konstanze, is always difficult to project. Their sometimes long arias are dramatically quite static and the walking about and sitting down, only to rise again within some seconds is what we all too often meet in the opera houses. I can understand the director’s despair: standing upright delivering a ten-minute-long aria feels very old-fashioned today. However is the alternative – hyper-activity – any better? The fault lies really in the play, in the music, and it can to a large extent be redeemed by good singing, of which there is plenty in this performance.

All the singers, and the actor, are convincing in their roles. As so often is the case it is the secondary couple, Pedrillo and Blonde, who steal the show. The character that dominates the stage whenever he appears is Pasha Selim. Oliver Tobias is younger than most Pashas. He is a dangerous presence, he can be violent, roaring with Hitler-like intensity, forcing Konstanze into a kiss. His grim looks send shivers down the spine. This also makes his volte-face at the end even more surprising.

Pasha’s factotum, the gardener Osmin, Kurt Moll is magnificent, both vocally and visually ... and those enormous whiskers! He is a superb actor and it is a pleasure to follow his facial expressions when Humphrey Burton lets the cameras zoom in on him. The "Tea Party Scene" during Blonde’s Durch Zärtlichkeit aria is excellent comedy, further enhanced by Lillian Watson’s lovely acting and singing. Moll executes his arias with all the fruitiness one could wish and his jubilant Ah, wie will ich triumphieren, the last bars of which are sung from the top of the prompt-box, is met with ovations. Lars Magnusson as Pedrillo is a highly accomplished comedian who makes the most of the pizzicato-accompanied Im Mohrenland and what’s more it’s sung with hushed elegance.

Of the two "serious" lovers, Deon van der Walt has a smooth rounded lyrical voice that is close to ideal for Belmonte. He also has the technical skill necessary to negotiate the intricacies of the second act aria Ich baue ganz, but his tone has a tendency to harden under pressure. This is a marginal flaw though, and the masterfully written duet Welch ein Geschick! is excellently done. His voice and that of Inga Nielsen blend well. On her own Ms Nielsen is in glorious form in Welcher Wechsel herrscht in meiner Seele, which musically is one of Mozart’s finest tragic arias. She’s on similarly inspired form in the notoriously difficult Martern aller Arten, requiring a coloratura soprano able also to take on Fidelio – a role Inga Nielsen has excelled in for a long time. I heard her as Leonora in Vienna three years ago and she also sings it on the highly recommendable complete recording on Naxos.

Fine singing, good acting and charming sets all presided over by a Solti less hectic than he has sometimes been. Good playing and good technical quality makes this another recommendation. Buy and enjoy!

Göran Forsling
Fine singing, good acting, charming sets ... presided over by a Solti less hectic than he has sometimes been. Good playing and technical quality ... Buy and enjoy! ... see Full Review



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