Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Philip Glass's Orphée at English National Opera

Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orphée - and Philip Glass’s chamber opera based on the film - are so closely intertwined it should not be a surprise that this new production for English National Opera often seems unable to distinguish the two. There is never a shred of ambiguity that cinema and theatre are like mirrors, a recurring feature of this production; and nor is there much doubt that this is as opera noir it gets.

Rapt audience at Dutch National Opera’s riveting Walküre

“Don’t miss this final chance – ever! – to see Die Walküre”, urges the Dutch National Opera website.

Sarah Wegener sings Strauss and Jurowski’s shattering Mahler

A little under a month ago, I reflected on Vladimir Jurowski’s tempi in Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. That willingness to range between extremes, often within the same work, was a very striking feature of this second concert, which also fielded a Mahler symphony - this time the Fifth. But we also had a Wagner prelude and Strauss songs to leave some of us scratching our heads.

Manon Lescaut in San Francisco

Of the San Francisco Opera Manon Lescauts (in past seasons Leontyne Price, Mirella Freni, Karita Mattila among others, all in their full maturity) the latest is Armenian born Parisian finished soprano Lianna Haroutounian in her role debut. And Mme. Haroutounian is surely the finest of them all.

A lukewarm performance of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette from the LSO and Tilson Thomas

A double celebration was the occasion for a packed house at the Barbican: the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s birth, alongside Michael Tilson Thomas’s fifty-year association with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Mahler’s Third Symphony launches Prague Symphony Orchestra's UK tour

The Anvil in Basingstoke was the first location for a strenuous seven-concert UK tour by the Prague Symphony Orchestra - a venue-hopping trip, criss-crossing the country from Hampshire to Wales, with four northern cities and a pit-stop in London spliced between Edinburgh and Nottingham.

Rigoletto past, present and future: a muddled production by Christiane Lutz for Glyndebourne Touring Opera

Charlie Chaplin was a master of slapstick whose rag-to-riches story - from workhouse-resident clog dancer to Hollywood legend with a salary to match his status - was as compelling as the physical comedy that he learned as a member of Fred Karno’s renowned troupe.

Rinaldo Through the Looking-Glass: Glyndebourne Touring Opera in Canterbury

Robert Carsen’s production of Rinaldo, first seen at Glyndebourne in 2011, gives a whole new meaning to the phrases ‘school-boy crush’ and ‘behind the bike-sheds’.

Predatory power and privilege in WNO's Rigoletto at the Birmingham Hippodrome

At a party hosted by a corrupt and dissolute political leader, wealthy patriarchal predators bask in excess, prowling the room on the hunt for female prey who seem all too eager to trade their sexual favours for the promise of power and patronage. ‘Questa o quella?’ the narcissistic host sings, (this one or that one?), indifferent to which woman he will bed that evening, assured of impunity.

Virginie Verrez captivates in WNO's Carmen at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Jo Davies’ new production of Carmen for Welsh National Opera presents not the exotic Orientalism of nineteenth-century France, nor a tale of the racial ‘Other’, feared and fantasised in equal measure by those whose native land she has infiltrated.

Die Zauberflöte brings mixed delights at the Royal Opera House

When did anyone leave a performance of Mozart’s Singspiel without some serious head scratching?

Haydn's La fedeltà premiata impresses at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

‘Exit, pursued by an octopus.’ The London Underground insignia in the centre of the curtain-drop at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Silk Street Theatre, advised patrons arriving for the performance of Joseph Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata (Fidelity Rewarded, 1780) that their Tube journey had terminated in ‘Arcadia’ - though this was not the pastoral idyll of Polixenes’ Bohemia but a parody of paradise more notable for its amatory anarchy than any utopian harmony.

Van Zweden conducts an unforgettable Walküre at the Concertgebouw

When native son Jaap van Zweden conducts in Amsterdam the house sells out in advance and expectations are high. Last Saturday, he returned to conduct another Wagner opera in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series. The Concertgebouw audience was already cheering the maestro loudly before anyone had played a single note. By the end of this concert version of Die Walküre, the promise implicit in the enthusiastic greeting had been fulfilled. This second installment of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung was truly memorable, and not just because of Van Zweden’s imprint.

Purcell for our time: Gabrieli Consort & Players at St John's Smith Square

Passing the competing Union and EU flags on College Green beside the Palace of Westminster on my way to St John’s Smith Square, where Paul McCreesh’s Gabrieli Consort & Players were to perform Henry Purcell’s 1691 'dramatic opera' King Arthur, the parallels between England now and England then were all too evident.

The Dallas Opera Cockerel: It’s All Golden

I greatly enjoyed the premiere of The Dallas Opera’s co-production with Santa Fe Opera of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel when it debuted at the latter in the summer festival of 2018.

Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is featuring Giuseppe Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Philip Glass: Music with Changing Parts - European premiere of revised version

Philip Glass has described Music with Changing Parts as a transitional work, its composition falling between earlier pieces like Music in Fifths and Music in Contrary Motion (both written in 1969), Music in Twelve Parts (1971-4) and the opera Einstein on the Beach (1975). Transition might really mean aberrant or from no-man’s land, because performances of it have become rare since the very early 1980s (though it was heard in London in 2005).

Wexford Festival Opera 2019

The 68th Wexford Festival Opera, which runs until Sunday 3rd November, is bringing past, present and future together in ways which suggest that the Festival is in good health, and will both blossom creatively and stay true to its roots in the years ahead.

Cenerentola, jazzed to the max

Seattle Opera’s current staging of Cenerentola is mostly fun to watch. It is also a great example of how trying too hard to inflate a smallish work to fill a huge auditorium can make fun seem more like work.

Bottesini’s Alì Babà Keeps Them Laughing

On Friday evening October 25, 2019, Opera Southwest opened its 47th season with composer Giovanni Bottesini and librettist Emilio Taddei’s Alì Babà in a version reconstructed from the original manuscript score by Conductor Anthony Barrese.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Rebecca Nelsen as Konstanze [Photo by Johan Persson courtesy of Garsington Opera 2013]
10 Jun 2013

Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Garsington Opera at Wormsley isn’t Mozart as you’d expect but it’s true to the spirit of Mozart who loved witty, madcap japes.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Rebecca Nelsen as Konstanze

Photos by Johan Persson courtesy of Garsington Opera 2013

 

The Singspiel is a comedy with an improbable plot. How did a nice girl like Konstanze get mixed up with a Turk? How does a tyrant suddenly turn into Good Guy? Daniel Slater’s imaginative invention might not follow the score note by note but it reaches the free-wheeling, zany spirit of the comedy Audiences should have the maturity to realize that the opera is strong enough to support different perspectives. Beckmesser would explode in a frenzy of fury. Mozart, though, would be cackling with delight.

Mozart didn’t encounter many real-life Pashas. Selim is a man of formidable wealth and power. Men this rich aren’t in touch with reality. They’re isolated in their places, guarded by paranoid henchmen. They don’t do things like normal people. Turning Selim into an oligarch isn’t mere updating. It’s a perceptive reading of the personality type. This Selim (Aaron Neil) likes football. “I built my house near the stadium. Or did I build the stadium near my house”. This deepens the portrayal and is an opportunity for good visual effects. The backdrop suddenly opens and a real Jaguar is driven onstage! This is Wormsley after all, where they do things in grand style. Football also serves as plot device. It makes Selim human. Osmin (Matthew Rose) can see through Belmonte (Norman Reinhardt) and Pedrillo (Mark Wilde), because they know his weak spot. When Selim’s team win a match, he drops Konstanze, as easily as a child moves on to a new toy. The contrived ending becomes perfectly logical.

Slater replaces the German spoken dialogue with multi-lingual banter. Why not ? How did the “Turks” communicate with the “foreigners”? When Osmin says “Ich hass Englander!” the audience laughs, but the idea springs from the original libretto. In the Vienna of Joseph II, England represented liberty. Osmin isn’t so much a Turk as an agent of repression. Thus Blonde sings “Ich bin eine Engländerin, zur Freiheit geboren”. It’s doubly funny when we know that Susanna Andersson is Swedish and is cooking up a sokker kaka. Her mistress is being preened in a spa where calories are seditious. The new dialogue is fast-paced and funny even when the jokes are deliberately hammy. Comedy subverts.

“Ein Herz, so in Freiheit geboren
Läßt niemals sich sklavisch behandeln
Bleibt, wenn schon die Freiheit verloren,
Noch stolz auf sie, lachet der Welt!”

Matthew-Rose-Osmin-Susanna-Andersson-Blonde-Garsington-Opera-Chorus-in-Die-Entfuhrung-aus-dem-Serail-Garsington-Opera-2013-credit-Johan-Persson.pngMatthew Rose as Osmin and Susanna Andersson as Blonde

Garsington Opera at Wormsley is a good size for Mozart and Douglas Boyd, the new Artistic Director, has spoken of its potential as a house for Mozart. (read the interview here). The musical standards in this Die Entführung aus dem Serail were very high. Matthew Rose’s Osmin was so well-defined that his performance would be impressive even in a much larger auditorium. He has been singing with Garsington Opera since the early days of his career. The company prides itself on nurturing young talent and singers remain loyal. Rose and Susanna Andersson made a striking pair. He’s very tall, and she’s very short, reflecting the imbalance of power. Both are equal as singers. Together they duelled as much as duetted. Although the bigger ensembles usually attract more attention, the conflict between Osmin and Blonde is the critical heart of the opera.

Rebecca Nelsen sang a feisty Konstanze. In the torture scene, she’s seen sitting in the same reclining chair she used in the spa. Now it’s an instrument of torture, the ideas not unconnected. Mozart writes tension into the music to suggest extremes of pain and screaming. Nelsen’s “Marten aller Arten” felt vivid, as if she were shaking with the effect of electric shock, though she maintained the proper flow.

Mark Wilde’s Pedrillo was as well acted as sung, with sharp control of fast-paced dialogue. Incidentally the speech rhythms in the dialogue mirrored the way Mozart sets the brisk, punchy vocal lines. Norman Reinhardt sang a laconic Belmonte. William Lacey conducted with brio.

Much credit must go to Francis O’Connor who designed the set. There isn’t much backstage area at Wormsley, since the pavilion was designed as a temporary structure. O’Connor’s simple backdrop suggest an impenetrable wall when Belmonte stands alone before it. Later segments pop in and out through recessed compartments. One becomes a lift which suggests movement beyond the stage, though it’s of course illusion. When the conspirators escape the guards, the guards are seen watching football in security control. The torture scene was particularly well executed, though that’s perhaps the wrong choice of words. The same compartment which had served as the lift and the entrance for the Jag became a claustrophobic room in stark black and white. Stagecraft rarely gets the attention it deserves, but it makes good drama possible. At Garsington Opera at Wormsley, technical facilities may not be huge, but they are used very effectively.

Anne Ozorio


Production and cast information:

Belmonte: Norman Reinhardt; Konstanze: Rebecca Nelsen; Pedrillo: Mark Wilde; Blonde: Susanna Andersson; Osmin: Matthew Rose; Bassa Selim: Aaron Neil. Garsington Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Conductor: William Lacey. Director: Daniel Slater. Designer: Francis O’Connor. Lighting Designer: Rick Fisher.

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):