This Abduction from the Seraglio Features Some Fine Singing but No ‘Spiel’

GermanyGermany Mozart, Die Entführung aus dem Serail: Bayerische Staatsoper Orchestra and Chorus / Ivor Bolton (conductor), Nationaltheater, Munich, 12.1.2018. (JMI)

Bayerische Staatsoper’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail © W. Hösl


Konstanze – Lisette Oropesa
Belmonte – Benjamín Bruns
Osmin – Hans-Peter König
Blonde – Kathleen Kim
Pedrillo – Matthew Grills
Bassa Selim – Bernd Schmidt
Narrator – Charlotte Schwab


Director – Martin Duncan
Set designer – Ultz
Lighting – Stan Pressner
Choreography – Jonathan Lunn

The biggest problem with this Martin Duncan production, which premiered in January 2003, lies in the elimination of the dialogue. This is replaced by a narrator, which limits the cast to singing their arias and duets, and it weakens the dramatic impact of the action, especially in the case of Blonde and Pedrillo. The result is a strange sort of singspiel without words, and the exact opposite of the April 2010 staging at the Liceu of Christof Loy’s production that had the dialogue in its entirety. Apparently, it has now become fashionable to eliminate it: this was also done last year in Rodrigo García’s production in Berlin.

The action takes place in what is supposed to be a palace in Turkey, where harem girls are dressed in black and veiled while the Europeans wear colourful costumes. There are no sets, just a bare stage with a screen in the background that is not used very often. A group of flying sofas hang from the ceiling and are moved about by extras. Because the singers are almost always seated on these sofas, there is little action on stage, and they seem more like costumed interpreters in a concert version.

Ivor Bolton, currently the musical director of the Teatro Real, appears frequently in Munich conducting this type of opera. He is very familiar with Mozart’s music, and his leadership was convincing: he drew a good sound from both the orchestra and the reduced chorus.

The most important character of the opera, Konstanze, was played here by Lisette Oropesa, and she did well despite the limitations of the staging noted above. She is a fine soprano, but rather too light for the character. To make a comparison, she is more suited to Susanna than the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro and, in my opinion, Konstanze is closer to the second role than the first. She fell a bit short on the low notes in the famous ‘Martern aller Arten’ (‘Tortures of all kinds’).

Tenor Benjamin Bruns has an attractive voice and was well cast in the part of Belmonte. He is a strong stage performer and thus was also harmed by the production

Hans-Peter König as Osmin was appearing after a break of more than a year, apparently due to vocal problems. Indeed, his voice seems somewhat diminished and his lower notes have lost their sonority. Hopefully, he will again be the great bass we have all known.

Soprano Kathleen Kim was Blonde, a character who is quite important on stage, but here Ms. Kim was limited to singing her arias. The same could be said of Matthew Grills in the part of Pedrillo, who was vocally correct although somewhat modest.

The audience seemed to be satisfied with the performance, and gave the heartiest applause to Lisette Oropesa and Ivor Bolton.

José M. Irurzun

1 thought on “This <i>Abduction from the Seraglio</i> Features Some Fine Singing but No ‘Spiel’”

  1. Mr. Irurzun:
    How you must suffer at the hands of most of Munich’s directors “Conceptions”.


    Ken Rowland


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