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Mozart, Die Entführung aus dem Serail: (Concert Version.) Soloists, Orchestra of The Age of Enlightenment. Conductor: Bernard Labadie. Auditorio Miguel Delibes de Valladolid. 21.11.2010 (JMI)


Konstanze: Susan Gritton.

Belmonte: Frederic Antoun.

Osmin: Alastair Miles.

Blonde: Malin Christensson.

Pedrillo: Tilman Lichdi.

Bernard Labadie and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are touring Europe with this Mozart opera in concert. I have always believed that these tours must contain something exceptional, if they are to avoid becoming projects that are purely commercial. To my mind, tours should bring along either rarely performed operas, exceptional musical quality, or outstanding vocal casts and ideally all three. On this occasion sadly, none of these necessities were present.

The Abduction from the Seraglio belongs to the Singspiel genre, of course i.e. music with dialogue. I do not believe that Singspiel is ever well suited to concert presentations, especially when completely eliminating all dialogue, and replacing it with a Narrator on stage who reads a few paragraphs of the plot to explain what will happen next. When there is also no chorus, and only four barely audible soloists as a substitute, the missing elements in the performance detract seriously from the musical worth of what ever remain.

Bernard Labadie is not a great Mozart specialist, at least not for me. His reading was correct enough, but many moments in his reading lacked lightness and the true Mozartian style that only a very few conductors are able to capture properly. Under his baton the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, produced a sound that was more appropriate to Baroque music than Mozart’s too, which was more than disappointing.

All opera lovers know that
The Seraglio needs three exceptional singers because of its technical difficulties. I am referring, obviously, to Konstanze, Belmonte and Osmin and without fine soloists in these roles, the opera makes no sense. English soprano Susan Gritton seemed not to be very familiar with the character of Konstanze, singing too often with score in hand and with some obvious vocal difficulties. The Canadian tenor Frederic Antoun was a good Belmonte, not particularly brilliant, but with a pleasant and well projected voice. He was quite expressive and managed nicely without a score.

The role of Osmín requires a true bass, powerful and sonorous at the bottom end of the voice. Alastair Miles seemed more a bass-baritone and did not have the low notes that the part requires. In addition, having rather the interpreter of a buffo part like Osmin singing from a score in his hands sapped too much of the necessary spontaneity and energy from the role unnecessarily. Mr Miles’ voice is not big, but surely his high notes should have been audible to the audience or even by himself. There weren’t where I was sitting.

Swedish soprano Malin Christensson was an acceptable Blonde who would surely have been much better off on stage. She sang the role as a soubrette but with a very pleasant timbre and I should also mention that she threw a real scream at the end of the aria that opens Act II.
Finally, Tilman Lichdi was Pedrillo, with a small voice, but he sang nicely enough even though he too was handicapped by being in a concert version.

The Auditorium was around on 40 % full. The audience was polite and courteous to the artists, although the final applause lasted only 3 or 4 minutes. By contrast, William Christie was cheered last month in this same auditorium for at least 12 minutes. That’s a big difference.

José M Irurzun

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