Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail

Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail Brenden Gunnell and Mari Eriksmoen in Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail, Glyndebourne. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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David McVicar returns to Glyndebourne with a nigh-on perfect production of Mozart’s comedy The Abduction from the Seraglio.

Dating from 1782, the opera deals with culture clash, pitting the attitudes of three Spaniards and an Englishwoman against those of the Turkish Pasha Selim and his henchman, Osmin. The work, though, is far from being a Christian rant against Muslims; indeed, the Pasha eventually shows a generosity of spirit that puts the Christians to shame.

These days, many directors are afraid to tackle these issues head-on, and it is entirely to McVicar’s credit that he is prepared to do so; on top of that he gives us a full edition of the dialogue, which contains vital information usually just left out. The resulting blend of uproarious comedy with deep seriousness is brilliantly achieved.

Extremely beautiful in themselves, and deploying ravishing colours, Vicki Mortimer’s sets and costumes offer an outstanding realisation of Mozart’s original setting of an eighteenth-century Turkish palace.

Individual performances, too, are excellent, with one or two special standouts. Edgaras Montvidas provides unstinting lyricism and handsome presence as Belmonte, determined to rescue Sally Matthews’ touchingly sung Konstanze from the Pasha’s harem. The purely spoken role of Selim himself is played by Franck Saurel – a former member of Cirque du Soleil who represents a real threat in that Konstanze is clearly (and understandably) attracted to him.

The comic servant couple of Pedrillo and his proud English girlfriend Blonde are skilfully sung and acted by Brenden Gunnell and Mari Eriksmoen respectively; she, in particular, is a scene-stealing spitfire. Best of all is Tobias Kehrer’s menacing Osmin, pouring out his bile in the richest of bass voices.

To bring the evening’s quality up to the maximum, Glyndebourne’s music director Robin Ticciati conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a performance that conveys all of the score’s amazing vitality and depth of feeling.

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Finely conducted by Robin Ticciati, McVicar’s production of Mozart’s Turkish comedy is a vocal and visual treat
George Hall
George Hall writes widely on opera and has contributed regularly to The Stage since 2000. He has also contributed to such publications as The New Penguin Opera Guide and the Oxford Companion to Music