OPERA NEWS - Die Entführung aus dem Serail
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Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Zurich Opera

In Review Zurich Escape Seraglio hdl 217
Zurich’s Entführung, with Peretyatko, Breslik, Sévigné and Laurenz
© T+T Fotografie/Tanja Dorendorf

LESS THAN A MONTH after his acrimonious dismissal from the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1781, Mozart received the promised libretto of Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Within two days he had composed two of the arias and the Act I trio. It was as if he were celebrating his newfound freedom. Die Entführung is a quest opera, and we can imagine Mozart identifying himself with Belmonte, who sets out to rescue his beloved Constanze from captivity. While working on the score, Mozart “rescued” his own Constanze from her family, marrying her within a few weeks of the opera’s premiere in July 1782. 

David Hermann’s new production for Zurich Opera (seen Nov. 11) presented the opera as a nightmarish dream of Belmonte’s, thereby emphasizing his centrality to an unusual degree. In addition, Hermann removed all the spoken dialogue. This was less harmful than one might imagine. Non sequiturs are acceptable in the realm of sleep, and the set numbers link each dramatic situation to the next. Hermann’s concept was no mere whim. The combination of his direction, admirably sensitive to both music and libretto, and Bettina Meyer’s superb sets was gripping.

The absence of dialogue also meant that the role of Pasha Selim was silent. He became a projection of Belmonte’s jealousy and Constanze’s desire. The Belgian actor Sam Louwyck nevertheless managed to imbue him with presence. 

With the importance of the Pasha reduced, the drama focused on an ongoing battle for supremacy between Belmonte and Osmin. This was good, as Pavol Breslik (Belmonte) and Nahuel Di Pierro (Osmin), in both their singing and acting, were head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. Breslik was onstage practically throughout the opera; Constanze’s “Martern aller Arten,” for instance, was cleverly addressed to him, not to the Pasha. Breslik convincingly conveyed his fears about her faithfulness, his own sexuality and the strange Muslim world in which he found himself. His voice is ideal for Mozart, and his shaping of phrases was near perfect. 

Di Pierro’s performance outclassed his previous appearances on the Zurich stage. His superbly characterized Osmin was a darker, more formidable character than is usually the case. The enormous difficulties inherent in the part were overcome with ease, and his tone remained true throughout its range from low D to high F.

The much-awaited Constanze of Olga Peretyatko proved to be a disappointment. The opening of her first aria (“Ach, ich liebte”) displayed an obtrusive vibrato, perilously close to a wobble, resulting in little variety of color in her singing. What was most surprising was the smudged coloratura, an egregious example being evident in the treacherous writing at “Kummer ruht in meinem Schoss.” It was only in the Act III quartet and duet that her intonation and phrasing provided pleasure.

Hermann cast his Pedrillo (Michael Laurenz) and Blonde (Claire de Sévigné) as alter egos of Belmonte and Constanze, a device that worked excellently within the overall concept of a troubling dream. Laurenz’s character was convincingly alive, but, as so often happens with these two roles, the artists’ singing was satisfactory but unexceptional.

The Orchestra La Scintilla played with verve and precision under the masterly conducting of the twenty-eight-year old Maxim Emelyanychev, who brought out all the energy and beauty of the youthful Mozart’s miraculous score. The level of excellence both onstage and in the orchestra pit ensured well-deserved cries of approval at curtain call.  —Martin Wheeler 

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