Monday, 25 June 2018

Notable debuts & a veteran director: Die Entführung aus dem Serail from the Grange Festival

Mozart: The Abduction from the Seraglio - Alexander Andreou - The Grange Festival 2018 (Photo Simon Annand)
Mozart: The Abduction from the Seraglio - Alexander Andreou -
The Grange Festival 2018 (Photo Simon Annand)
Mozart Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio); Kiandra Howarth, Ed Lyon, Daisy Brown, Paul Curievici, Jonathan Lemalu, dir: John Copley, cond: Jean-Luc Tingaud, Bournemout Symphony Orchestra; The Grange Festival Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 24 June 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Engaging and visually ravishing account of Mozart's first Singspiel

Mozart: The Abduction from the Seraglio - Kiandra Howarth, Ed Lyon - The Grange Festival 2018 (Photo Simon Annand)
Kiandra Howarth, Ed Lyon
The Grange Festival 2018 (Photo Simon Annand)
For its final production this year, The Grange Festival invited veteran director John Copley to return [Copley directed last year's Albert Herring, see my review] for a production of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) in a new English translation by David Parry. The cast, all of whom were making their role debuts, featured Kiandra Howarth as Konstanze, Ed Lyon as Belmonte, Daisy Brown as Blonde, Paul Curievici as Pedrillo, Jonathan Lemalu as Osmin and Alexander Andreou as Pasha Selim. The designs were by Tim Reed with lighting by Kevin Treacy, and Jean-Luc Tingaud conducted the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Tim Reed's picturesque set, based around a series of moving screens, provided attractive and varied settings for this traditional 18th century setting of the story. Within this Reed provided much visual interest with the costumes, particular the highly theatrical ones for the Pasha Selim's court. Copley's production told the story simply and directly without any modern glosses, which placed a lot of responsibility on the singers to fully inhabit their roles.

Diction was excellent and performing the work in English enabled a high degree of communication with the audience, the subtitles were hardly needed. David Parry's translation, with rhyming texts for the arias, was lively and engaging and avoided many of the politically incorrect attitudes of the original libretto.

Though the plot involves a number of Enlightenment pre-occupations, the libretto's lack of character development and the fact that crucial information about the back-story is held back until the final scene makes the piece quite light in texture despite some serious intensity in arias like 'Marten aller Arten'. Copley's production did not try to disguise this, but concentrated on telling a story in an engaging manner as possible, with some stunning visual moments.

Mozart: The Abduction from the Seraglio - Jonathan Lemalu, Paul Curievici - The Grange Festival 2018 (Photo Simon Annand)
Jonathan Lemalu, Paul Curievici -
The Grange Festival 2018 (Photo Simon Annand)
Kiandra Howarth made a notable Konstanze, wonderfully lyrical in her approach to the music yet firm of purpose when dealing with Pasha Selim. Understandably not quite relaxed in her opening aria, Howarth gave a stunning account of  'Marten aller Arten' which combined fluency in the fioriture with strength of tone and superb stamina. And this was simply the centre-piece of a very notable role debut.

Ed Lyon sang Belmonte with vibrant tone with some lovely hushed mezza-voce in the quiet passages. In the early part of the opera, Lyon's Belmonte did not manage to get much beyond the image of the love-obsessed drip, but then the libretto did not give him much to work with. But in his aria which opens Act Three ('Ich baue ganz auf deine Stärke'), Lyon brought a greater depth to the character and sang with real intensity.

As Blonde, Daisy Brown made a wonderful contrast with Kiandra Howarth's Konstanze. Pert, lively and characterful, Brown sang with pin-sharp accuracy and really charmed, as well as giving as good as she got in her scene with Jonathan Lemalu's Osmin. Paul Curievici brought a wonderful sense of character, fun and real physicality to the role of Pedrillo, with a lovely knowing sense which involved the audience in the joke. Curievici has a slightly more dramatic voice than some Pedrillo's and in 'Frisch zum Kampfe' he pushed the tone somewhat, but overally this was a delightfully engaging performance.

Mozart: The Abduction from the Seraglio - Jonathan Lemalu, Daisy Brown - The Grange Festival 2018 (Photo Simon Annand)
Jonathan Lemalu, Daisy Brown -
The Grange Festival 2018 (Photo Simon Annand)
Jonathan Lemalu's performance as Osmin was a notable assumption of a very tricky role. Osmin's music is some of the most complex in the opera, and the character combines elements of comedy and anger. Lemalu judged the balance of these admirably, showing superb comic timing and creating a very vividly rounded portrait, whilst never leaving us in doubt of Osmin's real power and anger. And the music was brilliantly executed, so that this was a fully rounded performance which leaped off the stage.

Pasha Selim is a relatively small role, and can be a thankless one. But Alexander Andreou brought real expressive depth to Pasha Selim, and it helped that Andreou was able to be profoundly expressive when in repose. You sense a real magnetism in the character, which helped explain the pull Konstanze has between Selim and Belmonte.

There was plenty for the chorus to do in this production, particularly men providing servants and soldiers. And they sang the chorus scenes with finely vibrant tones.

In the pit, Jean-Luc Tingaud drew a fine-grained and highly refined account of the score, full of lovely details and fine-grained textures which matched the performance on stage.

Mozart: The Abduction from the Seraglio - Paul Curievici and Chorus - The Grange Festival 2018 (Photo Simon Annand)
Mozart: The Abduction from the Seraglio - Paul Curievici and Chorus - The Grange Festival 2018 (Photo Simon Annand)
John Copley drew engaging performances from all his cast, ensuring that the important spoken dialogue flowed naturally without an hint of stilted delivery. The moving from spoken to sung was handled deftly. This was a visually ravishing and highly engaging telling of the story.

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Vivid drama: Handel's Agrippina at The Grange Festival  (★★★★★) - opera review
  • Rip-roaring fun: Elena Langer's Rhondda Rips It Up! (★★★★) - music theatre review
  • Debut: Soprano Chen Reiss sings her first staged Zerlina for her Covent Garden debut  - interview
  • Powerfully uplifting: Bach's Mass in B minor from the Dunedin Consort (★★★★★) - concert review
  • Brilliant ensemble: Cole Porter's Kiss me Kate from Opera North (★★★★½) - music theatre review
  • ‘A well-regulated church music’ - John Eliot Gardiner at the Bach Weekend at the Barbican  (★★★★) - concert review
  • Humanity & warmth - Solomon's Knot at the Bach Weekend at the Barbican  (★★★★½) - concert review
  • Handel Sonatas for violin and basso continuo (★★★★★) - CD review
  • Engaging rarity: Verdi's Un giorno di regno from Heidenheim (★★★★) - CD review
  • Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia at The Grange Festival (★★★★) - Opera review
  • Home

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