Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

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):