Die Entf¸hrung aus dem Serail at The Grange

Kiandra Howarth sang as fine a Konstanze as I have heard, Christine Sch‰fer
included, coloratura clear and meaningful, line finely spun. Humanity
breathed into her character was Mozart’s – yet hers too. Daisy Brown’s
spirited Blonde offered virtues similar yet far from identical; there was no
difficulty in distinguishing the two soprano roles, style and delivery
complementary yet distinctive. Much the same might be said of the two
tenors, Ed Lyon and Paul Curievici. Lyon’s dignified, yet heartfelt
Belmonte and Curievici’s quicksilver Pedrillo offered complementary
nobilities, alert to distinctions of social order whilst also suggesting
that they – we too – should not be bound by them. And so, in the case of
duets and ensembles, indeed of questions and responses, the vocal
ingredients were prepared, ready to blend, yet also to retain their
individual flavours: which they did. Jonathan Lemalu’s Osmin offered
similar virtues from ‘outside’ the charmed European circle, as it were:
more contrast, than complement. All handled dialogue well – even if it
suffered, as still more did the rest, from a ‘translation’ into English,
often very loose indeed, by David Parry: a translation apparently more
concerned to draw attention to itself with ‘amusing’ rhymes than to permit
the drama to unfold.

Alas, there was little to cheer in the rest. The strange decision to
translate – there were English titles – was one thing; more seriously, John
Copley’s new (?!) production seemed stuck in a misremembered 1950s. An Entf¸hrung, sorry Abduction, for Brexit? There was
certainly little in the way of diversity amongst the audience. More
bizarrely, it registered not a jot that this is an Orientalist opera
concerned with a purported clash between European and Ottoman
civilisations; such was neither portrayed nor deconstructed. Nor, however,
was anything put in place of that admittedly problematical clash. We saw
neither an exploration of what human ‘love’ might or might not mean, as in
Calixto Bieito’s Berlin staging or Stefan Herheim’s exhilarating total
reinvention of the work – minus the Pasha – for Salzburg, nor any sense of
the dark sadomasochism (‘Martern aller Arten…’) both directors and others
have explored. I am not sure I could imagine anything less erotic if I
tried – and I certainly do not intend to try.

It was as if this were just a terribly unfunny comedy chosen for an
end-of-term school play: nothing to scare away the parents, yet nothing to
attract them either. The Êsthetic, such as it was, seemed very much ‘school
play’ – unironically so. It was not so much that Copley had no concept, nor
a question of ‘traditionalism’ or otherwise; it was about a fruitless
search for drama ending in watching some people in vaguely ‘exotic’
costumes walk around a stage. Even

David McVicar’s determinedly anodyne production

for Glyndebourne seemed deep by comparison. One at least had the sense that
McVicar might, for the sake of ‘entertainment’, have been knowingly evading
the issues rather than remaining blissfully unaware of them. This might
have been directed by Andrea Leadsom, although not #asamother.

Jean-Luc Tingaud’s conducting proved no more revealing. Mostly hard-driven,
with occasional arbitrary slowing (presumably for ‘expression’), it again
had one wondering what the fuss might all be about when it came to the
operas of Mozart. (My companion, a highly experienced and reflective
opera-goer, commented that, had this been her first encounter, it would
most likely also have been her last.) On the occasions that the woodwind of
the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra managed to break a little free, they
sounded delectable. Again, however, the drama remained entirely vocal.

Mark Berry

Mozart: Die Entf¸hrung aus dem Serail, KV 384

Pasha Selim: Alexander Andreou; Konstanze: Kiandra Howarth; Blonde: Daisy
Brown; Belmonte: Ed Lyon; Pedrillo: Paul Curievici; Osmin: Jonathan Lemalu.
Director: John Copley; Designs: Tim Reed; Lighting: Kevin Treacy. Grange
Festival Chorus (chorus master: Tom Primrose)/Bournemouth Symphony
Orchestra/Jean-Luc Tingaud (conductor).

The Grange, Northington, Hampshire, 24 June 2018

image_description=Die Entf¸hrung aus dem Serail:The Grange Festival 2018
product_title=Die Entf¸hrung aus dem Serail:The Grange Festival 2018
product_by=A review by Mark Berry
product_id= Above: Alexander Andreou (Pasha Selim)

Photo credit: Simon Annand