Volksoper Abduction: Men Preferred to Blondes

AustriaAustria W.A.Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail: Soloists, Orchestra & Chorus Volksoper Wien, Gerrit Priessnitz (conductor), Vienna Volksoper, 13.9.2012 (JMI)

Production: Volksoper Wien

Direction: Helen Malkowski
Sets and Costumes: Bernd Franke


Konstanze: Netta Or
Belmonte: Mirko Roschkowski
Osmin: Gregory Frank
Blonde: Beate Ritter
Pedrillo: Cosmin Ifrim
Selim Bassa: August Zinner

Picture courtesy Vienna Volksoper, © Barbara Pálffy

Helen Malkowski’s production premiered a couple of years ago and has been revived several times since. The sets are the same for the three acts, except for a few changes between the acts: a decadent palace, and all the protagonists wearing white and off-white suits. In general, it’s an effective set for narrating the plot, but it’s not without Mrs. Malkowski’s fingerprints:

The chorus of Janissaries are Talibans. When Selim (August Zinner) enters the stage, he is followed by his ladies, all with their veils, which are taken off one by one, by the lord himself. At very end of the opera, following the departure of the Westerners, Selim is left alone on stage. Suddenly out comes Osmin, with bloody hands and Blonde’s clothes full of blood. Mrs. Malkowski has decided to change the happy end of the opera, and throw its humanist message of forgiveness into the waste bin.

Conductor Gerrit Priessnitz cut part of the dialogues, which gave more life to the action, at least for a Southern European visitor without a proper grasp of German. Priessnitz, who is a regular in the pit of the Volksoper, conducted a lively reading well-suited to Mozart, and obtained a remarkable result from the orchestra. The chorus did also well in its brief appearances. The last appearance of the singers came from the pit, to underscore Pasha Selim’s final loneliness on stage.

The male voices bettered their female colleagues, which is a nice break from the usual. Netta Or as Konstanze—with her non-too pleasant voic—has a good-enough technique, but the character needs a more assertive middle range. Beate Ritter as Blonde is also a light soprano, a real soubrette. She has a pleasant middle register, but her voice changes further on high, and not for the better.

Mirko Roschkowski was a well-suited Belmonte, a light tenor, singing with gusto and refinement. He is the kind of Mozart tenor who could sing in many theaters without problems. Gregory Frank, who has always been the Osmin of this production, was quite good. His voice is sonorous enough in those deep notes that are so important for this role. Cosmin Ifrim made for an excellent Pedrillo.

José MªIrurzun