Die Entführung aus dem Serail / Amsterdam 2008 / Aiken, Montvidas, et al. (2)

[part one here]

As I said, this production’s Belmonte is not a conventionally heroic figure. He is twitchy and fussy and prone to panic at the wrong moment — he even bolts during “wenn der Freude Tränen fliessen,” and Blonde and Pedrillo interrupt to call him back. Edgaras Montvidas expresses this part of his character very well – there is a deliberate hesitancy about this Belmonte. He doesn’t really know what he’s about, and he’s afraid it’s going to turn out to be the wrong thing.

Here is “wenn der Freude Tränen fliessen” through “Ach, Belmonte!”

This reading of Belmonte puts more weight on Konstanze’s ambivalence about him and her attraction to Selim. One of the things that struck me about this production, in fact, was how Laura Aikin (Konstanze) made “ach, ich liebte” into part of the narrative that leaps seamlessly out of the spoken dialogue that precedes it. At Selim’s “immer noch traurig” she and Blonde are smoking and giggling – she’s hardly in tears — and she gets up and runs to embrace him. Their interaction indicates they like one another very much; there’s a physical familiarity that is hard to miss. But there are limits to what sort of relationship she is willing to enter into:

Like Belmonte, Konstanze does not seem to be sure what she is about either. And it’s not as if Selim (Steven van Watermeulen) is an unambiguously nice guy. He runs from slightly eccentric to rather frightening – during the revelation in Act III that Belmonte’s father is his oldest enemy he is yelling every single word and you realize that you have not the slightest idea what this man is going to do next. When Konstanze says that she will die for/with Belmonte, he vomits. At first I thought Selim was pretending to vomit, but I think the vomiting is supposed to be real. (In the sense that it’s the actor pretending and not Selim. Theater about theater!)

What this all boils down to, I think, is Entführung as a story about the ambiguity of personal relationships in a very general sense. Konstanze clearly feels duty-bound to stay with Belmonte, although her frustration emerges at several points, e.g. during the conversation at the end of Act II about how he will have the ship ready, the way she says “I will wait for you,” indicates that we are not talking about the ship any more – it’s “yes, I will wait for you, what else have I ever been doing?” The production has taken pains to make us hesitant to trust the parts of this story that claim to be about Turkey or the ‘exotic east’. Normally, Konstanze’s reluctance or inability to love Selim is couched in terms of ‘can a Christian European woman love a Muslim man?’ But this production moves that just out of reach as a way of interpreting that relationship. It turns the question into something more like ‘why do people choose one person and not another?’

In this sense, I suppose that setting up the production in the way they have here is a way of universalizing an otherwise quite historically specific story. I am not sure what I think about that. But I think the way to figure out what I think about that is to ask whether it makes any difference in musical terms. [next part here.]