I think I’ve got used to David McVicar productions or, at least, what he’s produced in the last ten years or so. The director’s notes will sound erudite and convey the impression that he’s gained some vital new insight into a well known work. The actual production on stage will be almost entirely conventional with maybe the odd visual flourish but nothing to start the synapses firing. This is very much the case with his 2015 production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail from Glyndebourne. The “big idea” is that Bassa Selim is caught between two worlds; the ‘west” and the “east”. Well duh! This is as revelatory as pointing out that Mimi has TB. This “revelation” is the reason/excuse for presenting the work with dialogues unaltered and uncut. This is very much a mixed blessing. Yes, it does allow some character development that’s otherwise missing but on the other hand it emphasises the fact that without some interesting new angle Entführing is basically dramatically a bit feeble. Is she faithful? How dare he doubt it? Please forgive me. Why should I? Lather, rinse, repeat. Enter Osmin. Hang them. Impale them. Daggers and poison. Over and over.
All that said, if one wants a highly traditional version of the work this is a pretty good one. It’s pretty to look at with the occasional striking stage picture. The singing and acting is generally very good too though it’s not perfect. Sally Matthews Konstanze is quite affecting and she’s very good in the more lyrical music but there are a lot of stock acting gestures and her coloratura isn’t the greatest ever. Edgaras Montvidas sings stylishly but can’t save Belmonte from being a crashing bore. Mari Eriksmoen and Brendan Gunnel have pretty decent chemistry and are even quite sexy as the prole lovers and Tobias Kehrer at least looks interesting as Osmin. Not for the first time Bassa Selim, here Franck Saurel, pretty much steals the show. It helps to be playing the only really interesting character I guess. The chorus is highly competent and Robin Ticciati in the pit generates some fizz with a really sprightly performance from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
François Roussillon’s video direction is judicious as ever and sound (DTS-HD MA) and picture are very good on the Blu-ray release. There’s a “making of” extra that, as previously suggested, raises expectations rather too high. The booklet contains an interview with designer Vicki Mortimer, an essay and a synopsis but no track listing. Subtitle options are English, French, German, Japanese and Korean.
This disc is currently offered as part of a three disc set with Glyndebourne’s 2012 Le Nozze di Figaro and the 2006 Così fan tutte. It’s a pretty good way of looking at how Glyndebourne approaches Mozart but this particular Entführung basically doesn’t do it for me but may suit those wanting something traditional and uncut.