Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Glyndebourne, GFO, June 2015Posted on 14 June 2015
For a summer evening in a relatively intimate theatre this Mozart Singspiel, making its 197th performance at Glyndebourne, is perfect. Yet the production by David McVicar is entirely new. Sensitive and stylish, with excellent designs by Vicki Mortimer, beautifully lit by Paule Constable, it brings out the strong points and charming absurdities of this engaging opera.
The story is simple: Pasha Selim, a Christian who converted to Islam has purchased three new slaves for his country estate, the young servants (and lovers) Pedrillo and Blonde, along with Blonde’s mistress Konstanze, lady love of the Spanish nobleman Belmonte, who is also Pedrillo’s master. Belmonte has set out to abduct them and return to Spain, getting himself into the household as potential architect to the Pasha. Adding strong pepper to these ingredients, the estate’s overseer is the noxious Osmin, a Monostatos-like figure who desires Blonde, and treats Pedrillo and Belmonte with aggressive contempt.
This dangerous servant, brilliantly sung and spoken by Tobias Kehrer, was the star of the show, his rich bass infusing the role with a colourful nastiness that in the end is his undoing. Mr. Kehrer was making his debut at Glyndebourne, as was the second star of the evening, Norwegian soprano Mari Eriksmoen as Blonde, whose pure singing was utter delight. The first scene of Act II in which the two of them come to blows, throwing plates, and food that splatters off a stool he uses as a shield, was terrific theatre. This is after all a Singspiel and the acting is of great importance.
In that context, Franck Saurel in the spoken role of Pasha Selim gave a fine portrayal of amorous desire for Konstanze, his superb naked torso making his advances look in danger of succeeding. The foreign accent in German was rather appropriate for this man of a different culture, and his words were clearly delivered, in contrast to Sally Matthews as Konstanze, who showed surprisingly fuzzy spoken diction, though her singing showed emotional commitment and she deftly managed the coloratura. As her noble lover Belmonte, Lithuanian tenor Edgaras Montvidas, looking very much the aristocrat, sang with fine dynamic control, while American tenor Brenden Gunnell as his servant Pedrillo was every inch a cultivated English servant, yet singing and speaking like a real German.
Altogether a very fine cast, aided by some half dozen actors and eight of the Pasha’s children, who appear at the start, and again at the end, bringing him back to reality and the joys of life. And under the baton of Robin Ticciati the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment gave a beautiful account of the light and shade in this music, well complemented by David McVicar’s glorious production.
Performances continue on various dates until August 10 with a live screening on July 19 — for details click here.