When performed as it was in the 2010 première run of this production, Helen Malkowsky’s take on [Die Entführung aus dem Serail] strips the opera of its contrived exoticism, redraws Osmin as a figure of basso buffo fun, and presents a sympathetic and tender Pasha Selim with whom the captive Konstanze has a fascination that can’t just be put down to Stockholm syndrome. A veritable psychodrama, taut as a wire until the very final Janissary chorus, is staged in the furtive looks exchanged between the pair – and also in a voicing of the spoken text, which, for depth of oral interpretation, would pass muster on one of Vienna’s principal theatrical stages.
Unfortunately, this cast did not repeat the thespian-grade acting performances of 2010. It doesn’t seem that Malkowsky was on hand to supervise this revival as all the nuance and tension of her direction is gone, leaving the Pasha as a mild-mannered lepidopterist (naturally more of a watcher than a collector), which makes little sense when we observe that Konstanze could walk out of his butterfly house any minute she wanted, but offers no self-rationalization for staying. Not untypically for repertory revivals, the one character who still comes across as obviously directed is the crudest, namely Osmin, whose falling down, sexual innuendos and other sub-Benny Hill antics quickly wear when left to carry the show.Burgtheater would be overstating it, but the quality of the thesping when I saw this Entführung in 2010 rivalled anything you would see at, say, the Theater in der Josefstadt. I suppose expecting to see that in the revival was a little hopeful, but what remains of Helen Malkowsky’s Volksoper production makes the abduction of Elfriede Ott look intelligent. See here for more.
Oh well, the real reason I went to this was to remind myself that this opera does not call for a prostitute’s nipples to be sliced off and presented to the lead soprano. Or indeed masturbation, urination as foreplay, or forced oral sex. That’s right, I’ll be in Berlin on Friday to see what Mozart intended merely as a ‘humorous tale’ (never mind the very real threat of piracy in the late eighteenth-century, which even affected opera companies, or that Mozart was Mozart, and capable of making his operas mean more than one grossly simplistic thing). Besides Bieito’s Entführung I’ll also be catching the premiere of Herheim’s Serse and a load of contemporary stuff, though posting will be slow on this as my reason for going to Berlin is, as always, work.