Based on some of the things that come up in the search stats for this blog, there are some folks out there with a serious not-entirely-musical thing for Malin Hartelius. So, for those people, I will tell you right now that if it will make your week to see a slightly sweaty Malin Hartelius sing “Martern aller Arten” while wearing a pink corset, this DVD is for you.
But joking aside, she is the best thing in this. On the other hand, the rest of what you have to undergo for the parts that she’s in is irritating enough that I’m not sure it’s worth it, particularly when you can go and watch this instead.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you put a very traditional production of this opera and a circus in a cage together and forced them to mate, the way they do with pandas at the zoo, you might end up, after a few months, with something like this. The stage is nearly empty except for a backdrop of watercolors of vaguely Turkish scenes and people that drop down one over the other as the scenes change (we also see shots of these during the overture). There is a canted tower stage left, with a wall behind it. The tower has a door and some windows and several little hatches into and out of which various people come and go. And some of these people? They do not need to be in this opera, and by the end I kind of wanted them to die in a fire. (A stage fire. Not a real one. I have no real-world animus against doofus actors.)
Let me explain. Osmin has this sort of retinue of cartoonish buffoons in silly hats who yell and sneak about and help Osmin threaten Pedrillo and spy on everyone and do silly little dance moves on prayer mats while Blonde sings “Welche Wonne.” They seem to have been chosen precisely for looking cartoonish – there’s a fat one, and one with a big nose, and one with no chin, and so on. I loathe them.
And then there is Selim (Sharokh Moshkin-Ghalam) who is at once the handsomest and the least sexy Pasha I have ever seen in a production of this opera. He looks like an illustration. But he is far more lively than most illustrations. During the “Singt dem grossen Bassa Lieder” chorus in Act one he enters – dancing! Seriously dancing. It’s impressive, but you kind of really want him to stop, but he doesn’t, and when he looks over at Konstanze and says “Immer noch traurig, Konstanze?” you end up thinking that if you were hanging out with a guy who was always pulling stunts like that you might be a little traurig too.
But it’s more than just the dancing. Moshkin-Ghalam’s acting is very stiff and stylized and you get no sense at all of why Konstanze might be drawn to him. Indeed, you completely understand why she wants to leave. But the fact that Konstanze is a bit ambivalent about the whole Pasha thing is key to the opera, and when that isn’t there, the opera loses some of its punch. It also has the unfortunate effect of undercutting the main source of emotional weight in this performance, Hartelius, but more on that later.
(Next section here.)