At the age of 85, John Copley – Britain’s most experienced opera director – stages Mozart’s Turkish comedy The Abduction from the Seraglio (as it is in David Parry’s free translation) at the Grange Festival.
Copley is an unashamed traditionalist, and there’s nothing here that will faze or flummox anyone familiar with the work as it has appeared on UK stages over many decades.
But he’s also a craftsman, and if he offers no new insights into the piece he does tell the story with clarity and humour. The jokes may be old ones and could be snappier, but in Tim Reed’s equally traditional designs this is a good-looking show that does more or less what it says on the tin.
The singing is always solid if rarely special. Tenors Ed Lyon as Belmonte and Paul Curievici as Pedrillo are somewhat similar in vocal character and approach, both giving clean-cut accounts of their roles without offering much in the way of subtlety.
In the high-flying soprano roles of Konstanze and her English maid Blonde respectively, Kiandra Howarth and Daisy Brown hit all their notes fair and square and once again present straightforward interpretations of their characters.
Making stronger impressions are bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu as a grand-scale Osmin who savours the comic possibilities of his role, and actor Alexander Andreou in the spoken role of Pasha Selim – a character to whom he brings considerable humanity and dignity.
The conductor is Jean-Luc Tingaud, who keeps up the Mozartian momentum and maintains order in the pit, where the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra are on excellent form.
There’s much more to Mozart’s opera than is sought here, of course, and if finally this feels like a nostalgic evening then it will nevertheless bring much pleasure.