Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their 40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.

La Vestale, La Monnaie, Bruxelles

In the first half of the 19th century, Spontini’s La Vestale was a hit. Empress Josephine sponsored its premiere, Parisians heard it hundreds of times, Berlioz raved about it and Wagner conducted it.

Shattering Madama Butterfly Stockholm

An intelligent updating and outstanding performance of the title role lead to a shattering climax in Puccini's Japanese opera



W. A. Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
22 Jul 2009

Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

The strategies of non-traditional opera directors are becoming as predictable and formulaic as the stuffy, static traditional productions that they work so hard not to emulate.

W. A. Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Konstanze: Laura Aikin; Belmonte: Edgaras Montvidas; Osmin: Kurt Rydl; Blonde: Mojca Erdmann;Pedrillo: Michael Smallwood; Bassa Selim: Steven Van Watermeulen. Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera. The Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. Constantinos Carydis, conductor. Johan Simons, stage director.

Opus Arte OA1003D [2DVDs]

$34.98  Click to buy

Modern dress, department store-window set design, causally explicit sex and/or violence - these are the equivalents to an old-fashioned staging’s overly plush costumes, painted backdrops and formulaic stage posturing. In that regard, this Nederlands Opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail, filmed live in February 2008, is a traditionally non-traditional version of Mozart’s early masterpiece. Working with costume designer Nina von Mechow and set designer Bert Neumann, director Johan Simons strives so hard for freshness and boldness that the viewer is exhausted by the effort expended rather than charmed and moved by the opera itself.

The sets provide no sense of the Pasha Selim’s residence as a place of confinement. A curtain of gold spangles glitters behind a platform, with huge blow-ups of harem-related paintings to either side. Modern furniture matches the modern dress of every character except Kurt Rydl’s Osmin, who gets to look comfortable in loose fabrics, vaguely Turkish. A bonus feature supplies the insight that the set is designed to resemble some sort of theater (in the very opening, two auditorium seats in red fabric are all we see before the curtain). What deeper insight into the opera this “all the world’s a stage” angle supplies evaded your reviewer.

Although director Johan Simons, in the bonus interviews, says all the right things about allegiance to the text and Mozart’s music, what he actually puts on stage seems more about using text and music as a starting point for displaying his own inventiveness. The action becomes frantic and pretentious, unfortunately, instead of mirthful or affecting.

The fatal weakness of the production is a Pasha Selim without a dangerous sex appeal. Steven Van Watermeulen follows the director’s dictates, apparently, and the resulting goofiness saps the drama and emotion from the character’s change of heart at the finale.

Goua Robert Grovugui, a handsome black youth in jeans and t-shirt, plays a mute role, following Selim’s orders, and giving the director the opportunity to have something to do during Belmonte and Constanze’s final duet. As they sing, the youth circles them, clasps the singer’s hands together, listens to their heartbeats, places Aiken’s hand on his head…What is the young man looking for? How do his actions reflect on Belmonte and Constanza’s situation (they expect to be executed soon)? All these questions draw attention to the young man, and by extension to the director as well - as attention is drawn away from the characters.

Fortunately, the musical side of things is more impressive. Laura Aikin’s Constanze, while looking somewhat mature, maintains her dignity. The music pushes her up into her top range, which is secure though sharp-edged. Edgaras Montvidas as Belmonte is youthful, attractive, and his pleasant voice meets the role’s demands well. He just needs a bit more personality to make a greater impression. Mojca Erdmann embodies the sexy, sassy Blonde very well, giving Michael Smallwood’s carefree Pedrillo an energetic counterpart. Kurt Rydl, as expected, steals the show as Osmin, both with his well-preserved bass voice and his comic skills.

Conductor Constantinos Carydis and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra support the singers with rhythmic precision and plenty of color.

Opus Arte spreads the opera onto two discs (with a break midway through act two), filling the second disc with interviews mixed with rehearsal footage. If not fascinating, at least these short clips don’t mirror the pedantic approach of Klaus Bertish’s academic windiness in the booklet essay.

Your reviewer would still go back to the decades old production with Karl Bohm conducting Francisco Araiza and Edita Gruberova. The classy yet simple production lets the music-making, of a very high level, tell the story. Director Simons doesn’t betray the opera; he simply doesn’t seem to trust it. A lot of effort for too little effect makes this a DVD difficult to recommend.

Chris Mullins


Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):