Melinda Hughes reviews a captivating Mozart opera that encapsulates all the wonder of the Proms
I didn’t manage to make it to Glyndebourne this year and I’m so disappointed but now I’m simply kicking myself for not having seen the sumptuous David McVicar production of this early Mozart opera Die Entf’rung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio).
Luckily for me Glyndebourne came to the Proms and my, what a feast it was.
Ian Rutherford’s staging of Mozart’s culture clash between the Ottoman Empire and Western values has perhaps more poignancy of late so the clever mix of costumes between both Turks and English gave a nice touch. Pasha Selim holds Konstanze captive, wanting her for his wife. She is steadfast yet they have an intimate understanding. Ultimately this opera, like so many of Mozart’s operas is that of human nature, forgiveness and compassion. This was Mozart the idealist.
So much for Semi-staging… there was so much going on; smashing of plates, hilarious destruction of topiary, drunken dancing and the hurling of huge men across dining tables.
The singing was absolutely outstanding and conductor Robin Ticciati has reinserted some long forgotten cuts which made arias such a Konstanze’s ten minute aria “Marten alle Arten” an exceptional tour de force. I sang this role with British Youth Opera and it is so high and so difficult! Matthews is absolutely one of the best singers around; her dark coloratura is pitch perfect, she has the stamina of an ox with the frailty and beauty of a Fra Angelico angel.
Her scenes with the Franck Saurel as the sexy yet slightly seedy Pasha Selim whose ardour for her is uncontrollable were intense and moving. A near-rape scene turns from despair, rage and longing into respect and remorse. Their relationship is complex and compelling; it’s the ultimate Stockholm syndrome.
Lithuanian tenor Edgras Montividas is a rich meaty-sounding Belmonte, statuesque and dashing , taking command of the stage. Mari Eriksmoen as Blonde was a feisty yet silvery toned Blonde with bags of comic timing. Her scenes with Tobias Kehrer as the Viking-esque guard were absolutely hysterical. She tries to teach him manners while he belches and farts his way through high tea.
This was an electric evening and I am so pleased I had the chance to experience it. I simply love the Proms, there’s nothing quite like it.