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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782)
Ryland Davies (tenor) Belmonte; Valerie Masterson (soprano) Constanze; Lilian Watson (soprano) Blonde; Willard White (bass) Osmin; Pedrillo (tenor) James Hoback; Joachim Nissmeier (speaker) Passa Selim
The Glyndebourne Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Gustav Kuhn
Rec. Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1980.
Producer Peter Wood.
PCM Stereo. Format 4:3. Region: 0 (Worldwide). DVD9. NTSC.
ARTHAUS 101 091 [140'00]


What a magnificent opera - Singspiel, to be absolutely correct - Die Entführung is! And to have it in this superbly sung and well-conducted version is a real delight. Gustav Kuhn presides, a conductor whose career seemed to start off with the highest of praise and promise and who subsequently became rather quiet. His direction here is of the surest, with a keen flair for comic timing coupled with a real understanding of the singers and the difficulties Mozart gives them - and there are many in this work!

Peter Wood's traditional staging – trees and leaves for the Palace forecourt, convincing sets to take us to the right period – means we can sit back and enjoy.

The star, surely, is Willard White. His Osmin is everything this character should be – self-assured, rather repellent and above all, superbly sung. White at the height of his powers was near unbeatable and it is possibly this DVD's greatest plus-point that we can enjoy White enjoying himself.

Ryland Davies is a strong tenor as Belmonte – reassuringly non-bleaty. His initial 'Hier soll ich dich den sehen' flows well, but it has to be admitted he is put completely in the shade when Osmin takes the stage. White's comedic timing is as much a joy to behold as his vocal technique is to hear. His staccato (so vital in this role) is of perfect attack, his laugh exactly in character. When he steals Pedrillo's spectacles and tells him what he intends to do to him, he steals not only the glasses but the show also.

Nevertheless Belmonte's aria 'Konstanze ... O wie ängstlich' shows some weaknesses, mainly in a slight awkwardness in handling melismatic writing. Kuhn's handling of the orchestra, though, is exemplary, the accents stabbing just the right amount.

Valerie Masterson gets off to a rather sour start with the first note of her long aria, 'Ach ich liebte'. Once settled in, though, almost all is loveliness - just a suspicion of sliding around in the melismas. But her stage presence is undeniable. It is in Act 2, though, that she hits form. Her two big numbers, 'Welcher Kummer' and the infamously difficult 'Martern aller Arten' show her at her best. There are very few aspirates in the latter, and her tone is pure and sad for the former. The concertino group from the orchestra (flute, oboe, violin and cello) excel in their contributions here, too. It may come as a surprise that this ends Act 1 on the screen, when in the listing in the booklet (and elsewhere) it comes during Act 2. Order in this opera is not completely fixed - Beecham famously played around, to memorable effect.

Lilian Watson's Blonde complements Masterson's Constanze perfectly. Light but not too bleaty, her 'Durch Zärtlichkeit' has a most appealing lyricism, and the ensuing duet with Osmin shows two top artists on top form making stage magic; listen out for Osmin's superb low E flat! The machinations that end the second act - beginning with a memorable, and fun, 'Vivat Bacchus!' from Pedrillo and Osmin - are dramatic excellence, with the final scene of nocturnal joy (evocatively lit) superbly paced by Kuhn and magnificently sustained by all concerned. One realises here the care that went into the choice of voices, as the tenors are readily distinguishable.

The final act shows Pedrillo (Hobeck) at his most ardent as he does his proto-Don Giovanni Serenade ('In Mohrenland gefangen war'). After singing so well, along comes White to remind us of his stature with a superb 'Ha, wie will ich triumphieren'. The Finale, which centres on the Pasha's clemency, is marked by Bissmeier's convincing gravity. I like the way that in the on-stage placing of singers it is Osmin that ruins the symmetry, and when he leaves, spatial harmony is restored so the opera can end happily.

Strongly recommended.

 

Colin Clarke

 

 



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