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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782)
Lois Marshall (soprano) - Konstanze (spoken dialogue by Hilde Volk); Ilse Hollweg (soprano) - Blonde (spoken dialogue by Ilse Hollweg); Léopold Simoneau (tenor) - Belmonte (spoken dialogue by Manfred Schmidt); Gerhard Unger (tenor) - Pedrillo (spoken dialogue by Gerhard Unger); Gottlob Frick (bass) - Osmin (spoken dialogue by Fritz Hopper); Hansgeorg Laubenthal (speaker) - Pasha Selim
Beecham Choral Society; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham
Bonus Recital: La Clemenza di Tito – Se all:impero [5:12]. Die Zauberflöte – Dies Bildnis [4:04]. Die Entführung aus dem Serail – Ich baue ganz auf deine Stärke [6:18]. Idomeneo – Torna la pace [6:27]. Concert Aria: Miseo! O sogno! … Aura, che intorno, K431 (1783) - [9:39]
Léopold Simoneau (tenor)
Orchestre du Théâtre des Champs-Elysées/André Jouve
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, May 1956 (opera: dialogue: Gemeindehaus, Berlin-Zahlendorf, October 1956); Théâtre Apollo, Paris, 2-4 May 1955 (arias) ADD
EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 3932612 [77:10 + 69:02]

Experience Classicsonline


It is always a nice feeling to renew acquaintance with old friends. And so it is with this Beecham Entführung, one of the earliest LP opera sets I bought. At the time - nearly thirty years ago now - it brought me great pleasure. Nothing has changed except that here there is the added bonus of five arias sung by Léopold Simoneau.

Paramount in Beecham's Entführung is a sense of the theatre. He brings a lightness of touch to all, highlighting the comedic situations while retaining the deeper issues (oppression, treatment of women) at stake in the plot. True, he plays with the order of the arias a little, but not to upset the plot. He moves Constanze's 'Martern aller Arten' on an act, from Act 2 to Act 3. Remember this is before the days of political correctness in music, and Beecham was a great tinkerer.

Beecham was a great conductor, too, though. Listen to how he encourages his chorus (the Beecham Choral Society) - to heights of celebration in the exultant Act 1 chorus, 'Singt dem grossen Bassa Lieder'. The sense of near-abandon is also heard in the faster sections of the overture … and how Beecham relishes the 'Turkish' percussion! Ensembles work extremely well (try the end of Act 1), even if one has to turn a blind eye to a few momentary lapses of orchestra/singer coordination. Of course, it is the Beecham sparkle that one looks out for, and nowhere is this more in evidence than in the Act 2 drinking duet 'Vivat Bacchus!' (Pedrillo and Osmin). The orchestral staccato is light as a feather.

If Lois Marshall sounds a little tremulous in her Act 1 aria, 'Ach ich liebte', her Act 2 'Welche Wechsel … Traurigkeit' is infinitely touching. Ilse Hollweg shines in the other soprano part, Blonde. Her security up high and purity of tone in 'Durch Zärtlichkeit' is awe-inspiring, as is her overall range. On the other end of the emotional scale lies her Act 2 'Welche Wonne', negotiated with enviable ease by Hollweg.

Gerhard Unger has all the power for a successful opening of 'Frisch zum Kampfe!' and yet, when it comes to Act 3's 'In Mohrenland gefangen' he spins a legato line of the finest silk … and how delightful is the RPO strings' pizzicato accompaniment here! Gottlob Frick is the superb bass chosen for Osmin. He fully holds the extreme bass notes Mozart requires of him. His Act 1 comedy is truly amusing, as is his sense of largesse in the later 'O, wie will ich triumphieren'. Simoneau shines brightly as a young sounding yet dignified Belmonte; 'O wie ängstlich' is truly superb.

The dialogue, by the way, was recorded in a completely separate location and on a completely different recording date … and actually in a different country! Only Hollweg and Unger speak their own lines. Yet it all edits together beautifully.

In 2005 I recommended an Arthaus DVD of this opera conducted by Gustav Kühn (Glyndebourne 1980), and that recommendation still stands for that medium. Yet Beecham seems truer to the spirit of Mozart in this audio-only experience.

The sound for the bonus items is rather more harsh. It hails from Ducretet-Thomson rather than HMV originals. Thankfully this is something which affects the orchestra more than the voice. Simoneau's honeyed tenor is marvellously lyrical in the Clemenza excerpt, his voice stretching effortlessly to the highest notes. It is this ease with the higher end, plus the seamless legato, that make the Zauberflöte excerpt a thing of such beauty.

You may raise an eyebrow at the Entführung excerpt, especially if you are in possession of the CD booklet, for it is not listed in the main body of the opera. In fact 'Ich baue ganz auf deine Stärke' is an alternative for Belmonte's Act 3 aria, 'Wenn der Freude' which is heard. Simoneau spins the long melismas of the alternative aria effectively, and Jouve accompanies musically - all the while proving he does not possess the Beecham magic, though. The Idomeneo excerpt is a salutary reminder as to the greatness of this wonderful opera. Readers new to Idomeneo who are not averse to opera in English could do worse than invest in the Chandos recording.(CHAN3103). Finally, the concert aria, K431. The link here is that K431 was written for Johann Adamberger, who created the role of Belmonte. A typical text of unhappy love - not given in the booklet, alas - is declaimed then sung with great feeling by Simoneau. The more exposed orchestral moments expose the failings of both recording and ensemble, however.

I should point out that my review copy, whilst containing the correct music, had the Barenboim Don Giovanni emblazoned on the discs themselves. The music was correct, thankfully, and I can only assume this was a one-off or a fault in early pressings of this set. Annotation is confined to a scene-by-scene synopsis of the opera and of the appendix of opera arias.

At this price, it seems inconceivable not to snap it up.

Colin Clarke


 




 


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