Die Entführung aus dem Serail / Hartelius, Klink, et al. / Festival d’Aix-en-Provence 2004 (3)

(Previous section here.)

Hartelius is capable of doing some really wonderful things with this role. She does a lot of them here – “Welche Wechsel . . Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose” for example, particularly the last section after 5.20 or so, has some lovely and expressive phrasing in it.

And this production/video direction has a good moment in the transition between Blonde and Osmin’s scene at the beginning of Act II and Konstanze’s that follows. Blonde (Magali Leger) remains on the stage and the camera moves over to where Konstanze has just appeared on the opposite side – the effect is to make the shift of tone in the music really jump out. It’s nice.

“Martern aller Arten” contains terrific singing, but the way the production sets up the drama it’s hard to tell what Konstanze is about here. It’s as if Hartelius doesn’t quite have the dramatic space to make the role as complicated or as interesting as it can be – or rather, that this is not the goal of this production. But the effect is the same. (Also, I admit to being relieved that when Selim makes his entrance beforehand, he doesn’t dance in. He walks. Thank you, stage director. Thank you.)

There is a bit of this again at the end, where in the final scene, as Belmonte and Konstanze are about to make their exit, she moves to take Selim’s hand, and doesn’t, but truly we don’t care, because none of the rest of it made any sense. Also, did I mention that at the very end, when the stage goes dark, a bunch of fireworks explode around the tower? I could list a few things this made me think of, but none of them are fit to print in a family newspaper, and in any case I don’t think it’s what the director intended. Or maybe it was. Hell, it could be the key to the entire thing and perhaps I have missed it.

But if we’re looking for mysterious keys, the pasha has to be one, right? I have been trying to figure this out for about four days and I can make neither head nor tail of it. When he first leaps in in Act I, with all the leaping and whirling and kicking, he looks like a puppet, or a toy – it’s dancing, but it’s not what I would call deeply expressive dancing. This is of a piece with that vaguely fairy-tale/children’s story quality to this production – you wouldn’t necessarily expect the Pasha to have much depth in a version of the story that is kicked off by a small child running onstage and waking up a sleeping Belmonte. And if you see the story from a child’s perspective, Belmonte and Konstanze are going to look silly and their actions difficult to understand, and one is going to be much more interested in clownish buffa persons and bright colors – but there are enough moments of grown-up emotional weight to this, here and there, that if this is the intention, it’s not quite being executed in a consistent way.

So as I said before, this production seems not to know what it is about. But it contains a few nice moments – and a lot of watercolors, if you’re into that kind of thing. And it’s difficult to be too down on a production where the orchestra get to wear fun hats, I guess.

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