Premiered at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo in 2019 in partnership with the Opéra de Marseille, this production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail is on the bill with a renewed cast, except for the character of Pacha. Our colleague Tania Bracq had appreciated the transposition at the beginning of the 20th century while regretting that in pulling the work towards vaudeville the staging had impoverished its meaning. At least Dieter Kaegi he shows a beautiful coherence: already in October 2000 in Geneva he placed the work in a closed place, the yacht of which Selim was obviously the Pasha. Twenty years later, it’s an international train linking Marseille to Cairo – why not Istanbul, where it stops? – which constitutes the place of confinement for Constanze, Blondchen and Pedrillo.
Obviously the transposition leads to multiple interventions on the libretto: thus, as there is no longer a garden, Osmin no longer picks figs for his opening aria but harshly checks the papers of this shady traveler who is Belmonte. At the same time disappears the halo of gallant heroism that surrounds the lover capable of braving adventurous journeys to find and free his beloved. No doubt one can taste the work without knowing the details, but can one deny that knowing them allows one to taste it better, more deeply? What novice spectator will know what he loses in the treatment of Osmin’s drunken scene where bottles of Cyprus wine go by the wayside, replaced by Pedrillo’s cocktails? In a production in Florence, once drunk the little one and the big one, the daughter and the mother, Kurt Rydl unleashed asked for the grandmother. This out of text was hilarious.
The humor, precisely, is what is lacking in this show. Osmin, whose outbursts should make you smile because they are ineffectual, appears on the edge of an odious brute. Costumes and sets (francis O’Connor) and lights (ROberto Venturi) amaze, and even the videos (Gabriel Grinda) which fairly faithfully illustrate the stages of the journey, from the Good Mother to the Pyramids, via Cappadocia and its fairy chimneys. But the spirit of the scenes is diluted in the frequent passages of the figuration, as if it were necessary to reduce the intimacy between the characters. Yet it is she who, today as in the creation, gives its strength to a work which could be only an entertainment. In their exchanges, the characters reveal themselves sincerely. Of course Constanze’s absolute fidelity, the Pacha’s perfect control over his sexual desires are extraordinary, perhaps even incredible, but these characters are fictions who embody an ideal offered as a challenge.
As he writes Die Entführung Mozart has just married Constance Weber, despite the disapproval of her father, who believes her frivolous, inclined to infidelity, and the composer takes this into account when he advises his wife to avoid opportunities to expose herself to gossip. . How not to see that the Constanze of the work is a manifesto of faith towards his wife and also a conspiracy? By showing a Constanze whose tirelessly proclaimed resistance suffers eclipses Dieter Kaegi takes the side of a trivial realism, contrary to Mozart’s intentions. Is it legit? Neither does the final twist, which sees Constanze return to snuggle up in Selim’s arms.
Another problematic intervention is the removal of any reference to the past of the Pasha, who renounced Christianity, as well as to the hypocritical and narrow-minded bigotry of Osmin. No doubt the subject is particularly sensitive today. But before arriving at the outcome where the Pasha acts as a man of Enlightenment, who makes the decision to forgive without the slightest reference to a revealed religion, his trusted man represents a very unworthy Muslim. So is this a condemnation of Islam? No, any more than the revelation of the bloodthirsty cruelty of Father de Belmonte is a condemnation of Christianity. This equalization of religions, then of a revolutionary boldness, would it be outdated? This choice of a moral conduct independent of any dogmatic authority, which makes humanity the supreme value, is delivered in an overall scene which resembles the end of a review. For us, this significantly reduces its impact.
Standing Patrick Bolleire (Osmin) Julien Dran (Belmonte) Serenad Uyar (Constanze) Bernhard Bettermann (Selim) ) Loïc Félix and Amélie Robins © Christian Dresse
Fortunately, if the conception of Dieter Kaegi did not convince us, it is not the same for the musical and vocal realization. A little more brilliance for the music of the janissaries would not have displeased us but since in this spectacle they only remain as depraved viveurs who constitute the court of the Pasha, we can understand that the warrior accents are somewhat watered down. Paolo Arrivabeni conducts with his usual precision, without slackness or haste, a reactive orchestra. The interventions of the choir are irreproachable.
Bernhard Bettermann lends Pacha his tall stature, his bearing and his understanding of a role he was already performing in Monte-Carlo. Loic Felixfifteen years after his Pedrillo in loco, effortlessly proves that his vocal mastery is intact and flows into the design of the character asked of him with a semblance of spontaneity which further adds to the pleasantness of the composition. His Blondchen is Amelie Robins, for whom it is a role-taking. On this premiere evening, where the tensions are perhaps more bitter, certain high notes of the first aria are a little stiff and certain vocalizations a little muddled, but once the emotion has been overcome, the liberated voice will precisely express the petulance of a temperament without acidity, boldly assuming the descent into the bass of the duet with Osmin. It’s at Patrick Bolleire that comes the heavy task of embodying this caricatural character, scapegoat for the composer’s settling of scores with his master Colloredo and perhaps also with his father. He carries out his duties with his usual probity, and if the character isn’t as buffoonish as we like, we’ll credit the performer for observing the instructions given to him. The voice is deep, and the range sufficient, but what about the projection? We asked ourselves the question because in the most serious passages, despite our proximity to the stage, it seemed very limited to us.
Like Amélie Robins, Serenad Uyar (Konstanze) is not completely in control of her voice in her opening aria, where harshness in the emission makes certain highs ugly, but for her too these slags disappear quickly. Flexibility, homogeneity, range, sweetness, which make it precisely moving and of course the virtuosity necessary for the air of bravery which it must sing in prey to the sexual harassment of a Pasha quick to do the opposite of what he affirms . One can only admire the abnegation of the interpreter! And since no one escapes it on this opening night, even Julien Dran in the entry air of Belmonte is not impeccable, with some tensions in the treble. But these are only momentary shadows, and the light will return, full, whole, with modulations, lifts and nuances that will delight. Master of his means, by the dress, the phrasing, the ornaments, this tenor delivers a Mozart singing lesson and the public will not be mistaken, who will acclaim him with the salutes.
The success is also very strong for everyone, including the staging team. So much the better. But as our colleague said, treating the work as a vaudeville, is it serving it?