Diana Damrau in a traditional production of Die entführung aus dem Serail.
January 3, 2013

Mozart Die Entführung

The Abduction from the Seraglio is classified as a Singspiel as opposed to an opera. This means that much of the dialogue is spoken rather than sung as recitative. This makes for, obviously, a talky kind of music theater, and it would probably be easier for the non-opera lover to think of it as having more in common with pieces such as Oklahoma, or The Sound of Music than with operas such as Don Giovanni, or Manon.

This is a Blu-Ray edition of a production of Mozart's opera that was done a couple of years ago. I described the picture at the top as being that of a traditional production. What that means is that the opera's sets are appropriate to the supposed time (18th century) and place (Turkey), rather than set in some fanciful period or country. You see this done to Shakespeare quite frequently. For example, there was a production of Richard III, that was updated to the 1930s and Richard was portrayed as a fascist dictator. Productions of Romeo and Juliet are often updated so that one may be white, and the other black, or some similar hot button, politically charged opposition. I took notice a while back of a production Cosi fan tutte that had been updated to the 1960s. This production has been updated so that it is non-time specific. There are still references to the Sultan, and the implied social structure is still that of the Ottoman empire, but the time would appear to be well after the real Ottoman empire collapsed in the debacle of WW I.

I think the idea behind this is to situate the drama so that its eternal truths are evident. Whether it works or not, I'm not so sure. In Mozart's opera rather than being a light piece of escapist fluff, it appears that Konstanze is suffering from something akin to Stockholm syndrome, while Selim, the Pasha, is genuinely in love with her. As in Cosi the resolution in favor of the original lovers appears to leave everyone more or less dissatisfied. I gather the idea is to say that true love can transcend apparent boundaries of nationality, religion, race, etc., all of which has been said before.

Miss Damrau is a great singer, and does well as Konstanze. Overall I think the production is probably darker than it should be, but as it is one of the few that is around on DVD or Blu-Ray, it may be worth adding to your collection.