Abduction in Aix

Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail is perhaps the most difficult of his major operas to bring off successfully.  I dealt with some of the issues in a review of Hans Neuenfel’s production so I won’t repeat myself here.  Jérôme Deschamps and Macha Makeïff’s production for the Aix-en-Provence Festival, filmed in 2004, has several interesting features that cast an interesting light on the main characters.  The most drastic is the treatment of Osmin.  Here he’s rather dignified and far from the fat, brutal, somewhat comic lecher of convention.  That side of his character is conveyed by five, mostly silent, sidekicks.  These guys are everywhere, portraying both Osmin’s baser nature and the “walls have eyes and ears” aspects of the story.  They are made to look rather dim and get some fairly funny business to play with.  Next we have Bassa Selim played by a dancer.  This makes it easier to portray him as sensitive but not a wimp through the use of extremely virile choreography.  Clever!  Finally, both Pedrillo and Blondchen are sung by people of colour.  That can’t be a coincidence.  It certainly puts a very interesting spin on the confrontation between Osmin and Blondchen about how English girls are different from Turks.  These ideas are played out against rather dramatically colourful sets and costumes with lots of comic business to make a fast paced and enjoyable romp that makes one think just enough about the underlying meanings.

1. goonsThe production concept is backed up by some excellent performances.  Malin Hartelius is, musically, a near perfect Konstanze.  She also pulls off a really interesting broody portrayal of the role.  Martern aller Artern is a triumph of gorgeous, athletic singing while acting her socks off physically.  It’s very impressive.  Matthias Klink is pretty much a copy book Mozart tenor as Belmont.  He’s stylish and very easy on the ear and acts well too.  Loïc Félix and Magalie Léger make a very cute and well matched pair as Blondchen and Pedrillo.  They both have pleasing voices and great comic timing.  Léger’s take on the big confrontation with Osmin is fairly conventional (complete with now obligatory BDSM elements) but very funny and convincing.  Wojtek Smilek seems a little more baritone than usual for Osmin but his voice fits the fairly dignified characterization rather well.  Shahrokh Moshkin-Ghalam is either a very good dancer for an actor or a very good actor for a dancer.  He’s one of the more complex and convincing Selims that I’ve seen and his dance moves, especially an extended sequence of fast turns are impressive.  Marc Minkowski is in the pit with his Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble (here wearing what might pass for turbans).  It’s a brisk but sensitive reading that doesn’t overpower the singers and doesn’t drag.  The small chorus is provided by the EuropaChorAcademie who look and sound very good indeed.

2.bassakonstanzeDon Kent directed for television and it it’s a pretty decent, unobtrusive job.  The sound (DTS, Dolby Surround and stereo options) and the picture are standard DVD quality.  The booklet contains a detailed track listing, a synopsis and rather good interviews with the directors and Minkowski.  There are no extras on the disk and the subtitle options are French, English, German and Spanish.  This disk is available separately or as part of a very good value boxed set of performances from Aix.  The other three are Boesmann’s Julie, a 2000 Coronation of Poppea with Anne-Sofie von Otter and a 2003 La Traviata with Mireille Delunsch and Matthew Polenzani.

3.blondchenIn summary, this is Mozart the way I like it.  It’s a thoughtful, well executed production with great singing and acting and a conductor and period instrument band who really know this music.


5 thoughts on “Abduction in Aix

  1. Certainly agree with your interesting review here. One of the most enjoyable productions of this opera that I’ve seen.

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