DIE ENTFUHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL - MOZART
ROYAL OPERA HOUSE – COVENT GARDEN
On 4 June 2000 I was at the ROH to see Mozart’s opera (singspiel) Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail (I Seraglio or The Abduction from the Harem), conducted by Charles Mackerras. The libretto was by Gottlob Stephanie the Younger after Christoph Friedrich Bretzner. This was the first important opera to be written in German.
[A singspiel is a comic opera with dialogue as was also Mozarts’s The Magic Flute. The singspiel was the forerunner of what became musical comedy. In 1778 a special company was established by Emperor Joseph II for the performance of Singspiel].
Act I - takes place at the palace of Pasha Selim on the Turkish coast. The Spanish nobleman Belmonte is seaching for beloved Constance (named after Mozart’s beloved wife) who has been carried off by pirates and sold to the Turks. He has traced Constance to Selim Pasha’s palace where he hopes and prays that he will find her (Hier soll ich dich denn sehen). At the palace he meets his former servant Pedrillo who is in the Pasha’s service and learns that Constance is now the favourite among his harem but she does not love him. When Selim complains that Constance does not love him she replies in a famous coloratura aria that she loves one who is now far away (“How enchanting, how enraptured were for me the days of yours…”). Belmonte pretends to be an architect and enters Pasha’s service so that he can rescue Constance and her maid Blonde (Pedrillo’s beloved who has been given by the Pasha to Osmin, the brutal and grotesque overseer). Pedrillo introduces Belmonte to the Pasha and he is offered work as an architect. Osmin joins the two in a lively trio. The Pasha’s patience is exhausted and he gives Constance until the next of the day to choose him or death.
Act II - in a garden – Osmin makes unsuccessful advances to Blonde who informs him she is no harem slave. Constance enters and says death would be but a deliverance and sings a brilliant aria in which she declares her fidelity to Belmonte (“…My courage will not fail me. Never faithless can I be.”) Pedrillo tells the girls that Belmonte has a ship ready to rescue them. He manages to get Osmin drunk. The two couples get together and plan their escape in a rousing quarter.
Act III. Belmonte and Pedrillo arrive with a ladder to rescue the girls. As a signal to them Pedrillo sings a romantic ballad (“…Red as a rose, as lilies fair…”) Belmonte fless with Constance but Osmin now awakened from his drunken stupor stops the other couple who are overtaken by a guard. In a triumphant aria Osmin promises them a terrible fate (“…Now the rope is found their necks, I will sing and dance with pleasure…”). The prisoners are taken before the Pasha. When he discovers that Belomte is the son of his worst enemy they expect no mercy. But the Pasha hesitates and finally his good nature triumphs and he allows them to leave for their homeland.
Belmonte was Kurt Streit; Osmin, Kurt Rydl; Pedrillo (formerly Belmonte’s servant but now the Pasha’s gardener) Peter Bronder; Constance, Christine Schaffer and Blonde, Caroline Stein. Pasha Selim was the actor Oliver Tobias. Although Tobias has been involved with opera very much he is perhaps best known for his film roles, particularly his leading role in The Stud in which he starred with Joan Collins. He was more recently in the West End run of the musical