I do like Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail especially for the music and its sense of fun. It may not be one of my favourite Mozart operas, with Cosi Fan Tutte especially having a stronger balance between comedy and drama, but it is an opera actually that does deserve more credit than it gets. While not quite on the same level as the 1980 Glyndebourne and 1980 Salzburg performances, alongside with the 1967 production this Entfuhrung from Gran Teatre Del Liceu is the best I've seen in a while, having been disappointed by the 2008(Aikin and Rydl) and especially 2006(Aikin and Hawlata, from Salzburg) performances.
This performance mayn't for the most ideal for those who love or very much like this opera. It is directed by somebody who apparently hates opera, though I can't say for sure whether that's true, and there is a big emphasis on the serious side of the opera. The humour doesn't sparkle as much as other productions, with the delivery being somewhat protracted, but at the same time it was a different approach that did work well. On the other hand, it doesn't feel overdone either, which is a plus, already puts it above the 2006 and 2008 performances.
On a visual front, the production is not bad at all. The 1980 Glyndebourne and Salzburg performances are more sumptuous to look at perhaps. But the sparse but atmospheric settings fit very well with the serious tone of Christof Loy's concept. The costumes are flattering and I did get much of a sense of what time period the production and opera were set in, again another improvement over the 2006 and 2008 productions. The staging manages not to be overdone and weird, instead it is naturally delivered and clear in its ideas.
Musically, the production is just excellent. There is stylish and beautiful orchestral playing. There is the energetic yet sensitive conducting of Ivor Bolton. And there is some great chorus singing, making much of their rare appearances in the opera.
As for the performances, they are of an equally high standard with two standouts. Diana Damrau's Konstanze is just wonderful. She always did have a charismatic presence, and makes us engage and sympathise with Konstanze's plight. And her colouratura shows more colour and warmth than in her earlier years, and is still as flexible. Martern Aller Arten is a real show-stopper in every sense of the word. Franz-Josef Selig is a very funny and intimidating Osmin. He also boasts a deeply resonant voice ideal but not always heard in recent years for the role with the exception of perhaps Kurt Rydl(Franz Hawlata has a handsome voice and characterises well but is not my idea of a true bass).
Blonde is Olga Pereyatko, and her soprano voice is full of colour and of the right kind of lyricism, really quite different from the rather dark sound(still every bit as thrilling though) I hear with a lot of other Russian sopranos. She also is very pert and charming. The speaking role Bassa/Pasha Selim is done by Christoph Quest, and he manages to be intimidating in presence and sensitive in listening. His rapport with Damrau is one of the high points of the production. Norbert Enst is fine as Pedrillo and blends and contrasts with Christof Stehl very cleverly, so you don't get confused who is who. Stehl's Belmonte is rather staid compared to the rest of the cast, but his voice is appropriately sweet and lyrical.
In conclusion, a wonderful performance and the best Entfuhrung I've seen in a while if not the very best production there is. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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