This live recording of Die Entführung aus dem Serail conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin follows those of Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni, the latter of which I bought because Joyce DiDonato was in it, and the former because why the hell not, and also Miah Persson. Both of those proved to be mixed bags. So is this one. There is some overlap of casts, but the only singer common to all three is Rolando Villazón, which choice – well, as they say, nobody likes it, but it keeps happening.
With this performance of Entführung I found myself spending a lot of time listening to the orchestra. Possibly this is the effect of bouncing from 1950s recordings of verismo to 2010s recordings of Mozart, but there was – for example – a crispness and brightness to the overture that I really enjoyed. The downside of this is that, however much you might try, you never lose sight of the piccolo or the triangle. The same sense of crispness and clear articulation jumped out at me again with the woodwinds in Osmin’s “solche hergelauf’ne Laffen” and in Osmin and Blonde’s duet at the beginning of Act II; along similar lines, the sprightliness of the orchestral playing in “vivat Bacchus” was very charming.
There is the occasional moment of weird emphasis in the orchestra, e.g. in the opening bars of Konstanze’s “Martern aller Arten” – one of those interpretive choices that one notices, but doesn’t ultimately change the way one hears the music in any way that I can see.
Then there is the matter of the piano. Initially, I kept hearing this piano sort of (aurally, of course) stalking around the orchestra and in and out of the arias and I thought I was nuts. Then I thought that perhaps the piano had been there in the music all along and I had just failed to notice it in all those other recordings. Then I thought no way. Then I decided to stop thinking and go look at the original score, which as it turns out does not include a piano. And yet there it is. I don’t mind the piano – it adds some interesting texture here and there – but I did find it distracting in the way that a wasp in the room is distracting when you’re trying to read. There’s a slice of your attention that never leaves off checking whether it’s still there or not.
As far as singing goes, this performance did not blow my hair back. Diana Damrau’s Konstanze evoked in me one of those “there’s nothing in the world wrong with this, but . . .” reactions. Her spoken recitatives develop more ping as the performance goes on, and the singing is bright and elegant, but as always, I’m not a fan of her vibrato and, well – like I said, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I’ve been far more excited by other renditions of this role.
The Pasha here is Thomas Quasthoff, who has I guess retired from singing? I don’t know. But he’s taken on this spoken-only role, and to be honest, I found it a little bland. I’ve enjoyed a lot of his song performances (and that wonderful Bach cantatas CD), and I was expecting to hear a more intense and dramatic Pasha than I got.
Then there are Anna Prohaska (Blonde) and Franz-Josef Selig (Osmin) who are probably the best things in this. From the moment you hear her voice Prohaska is vibrant and exciting, and the Blonde-Osmin duet near the beginning of Act II has a real snap to it. I was waiting a bit impatiently during Konstanze’s “Martern aller Arten” later on because I wanted to get on and hear Blonde’s “Welche Wonne, welche Lust.”