Konstanze: Laura Aikin
Belmonte: Pavol Breslik
Osmin: Wilhelm Schwinghammer
Blonde: Sonia Grané
Pedrillo: Manuel Günther
Bassa Selim: Peter Moltzen
Production: Berlin Staatsoper
Direction: Michael Thalheimer
Sets: Olaf Altmann
Costumes: Katrin Lea Tag
Lighting: Olaf Freese
The Berlin Staatsoper is now in the fourth season away from its usual location, Unter den Linden. What was at first supposed to be a one-season move now seems like it will last until 2017.
This Mozart opera premiered in a so-called staged version by Michael Thalheimer at the Berlin Staatsoper in 2009. That means it is now six years that we have suffered through one of the most absurd productions I’ve seen in a long time. The absurdity begins with the fact that it is not a true stage production. In fact, I’ve seen many operas in concert that better deserve to be considered as staged versions than this one. This really is a concert version with, in some cases, grotesque costumes.
The “sets” consist of flat wooden walls at the back and sides, a completely naked stage, and an elevated walkway so that at times the action (?) can take place on two levels. The costumes are basic white for Konstanze and Belmonte and bizarre garb for Pedrillo, Blondine and Osmin; the chorus wears concert dress. The stage direction is no different from what might be offered in a concert version, with mainly static singers. For instance, each in the quartet of Europeans in the second act sings from a different corner, with Belmonte and Konstanze on the upper level.
The musical direction was in the hands of Christopher Moulds, whose performance was not convincing. It lacked finesse and offered too much volume at times. Tempi were lively, but the music did not sound to me like real Mozart. The Staatskapelle Berlin was not up to the level that I have enjoyed from them many times in the past.
The cast was headed by American soprano Laura Aikin, who was a good Konstanze in the middle range. She had problems at the top of the tessitura, becoming rather shrill, and was too weak in the lower notes. Her coloratura was good.
Tenor Pavol Breslik in the part of Belmonte was the best singer in the cast. He is very suited to the role, with a beautiful and well-handled voice and a credible presence on stage.
Wilhelm Schwinghammer was the interpreter of Osmin. I have to confess that I have never been inspired by this singer, but I was curious to hear him since he sings regularly in important opera houses. Once again I have to say that I was not persuaded. His voice lacks amplitude for this part, and he doesn’t have a true comedic sense.
The young Portuguese soprano Sonia Grané as Blondine was not compelling either. Her voice is not outstanding, very light and small in size. Tenor Manuel Günther went unnoticed as Pedrillo.
José M. Irurzun