Abduction from the Seraglio, Grange Festival, June 2018Posted on 30 June 2018
The one non-singing role in this Mozart Singspiel— the Ottoman Pasha Selim — at the very end turns out to be the noblest character in the story.
In the meantime his unrequited passion for Konstanze has led him to threaten terrible punishment if she fails to reciprocate his ardour. She has been purchased as a slave along with Blonde, her maid, and Pedrillo, the servant of Konstanze’s fiancé Belmonte, who wants his fiancé back. He sails to Turkey with plans for an abduction, whose failure makes things look bleak for the three Europeans, but the music speaks of hope and Selim eventually rises magnificently to the occasion.
John Copley’s production of this knockabout comedy works like a charm. Tim Reed’s simple but imposing sets and tongue-in-cheek Ottoman era costumes were beautifully lit by Kevin Treacy, giving just the right pantomime element to this wacky story where the Pasha, a Christian who has converted to Islam, forgives the son of his old enemy, repaying evil with forgiveness and sublime generosity. Darker forces drive Selim’s principal servant the noxious Osmin, whose spoken words and deep bass singing notes were in the safe hands of Jonathan Lemalu. As the Pasha himself, Alexander Andreou exhibited excellent gravitas and it was a pleasure to hear this work in David Parry’s witty translation. Glyndebourne’s production three years ago was in German, but with good diction, spoken dialogue and the important non-singing role of the Pasha, it is a relief to safely ignore the surtitles.
The four lovers were all well sung, with Kiandra Howarth showing anguish, restrained power and lovely embellishments in the role of Konstanze, and Daisy Brown an absolute delight as her servant Blonde. As their lovers Belmonte and Pedrillo, Ed Lyon and Paul Curevici fitted their roles to perfection in both youthful energy and vocal firmness. Occasionally the voices of this young cast seemed almost too powerful for a relatively small theatre, but Copley’s decision to do it in English is absolutely right for such a marvellously intimate setting.
Conducting by Jean-Luc Tingaud gave Mozart’s music a steady pace and the singers plenty of vocal space. Bringing in John Copley as director was a small coup, and a heart-warming return to England for him after his recent sacking by the humourless Met in New York where a chorus member objected to his usual brand of colourful suggestiveness. Those easily offended should not work in the world of opera where the stories and composers are all guilty of exposing our deepest needs and insecurities, sometimes even — heaven help us — making fun of them, as this opera does.
Just the thing for a lovely summer’s day in beautiful rural surroundings, where Michael Chance and his team are doing wonders with operatic works of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries — their recent Agrippina was outstanding.
Performances continue until July 7 — for details click here.