Golden age Mozart from a master conductor
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 04/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail or The Abduction from the Seraglio was composed by Mozart in 1782 during his first heady days in Vienna. He'd recently thrown off the shackles of provincial Salzburg and his odious servitude under the Prince-Archbishop Colloredo. This Singspiel (song-play) was first performed at the Burgtheater in Vienna, and is the wellspring of the famous story about Mozart's postperformance meeting with Emperor Joseph II in which the illustrious Enlightenment ruler uttered his famous critique: "Too beautiful for our ears and monstrous many notes, my dear Mozart". Mozart supposedly replied "Exactly as many as necessary, your majesty".
Joseph II had founded a National Singspiel Company in 1778 which was designed to promote German culture in Vienna where the predominant culture, at least among the aristocracy, was French. The work, Mozart's first imperial operatic commission, combines elements of Italian opera seria, opera buffa and even folklike German song. It is a truly new amalgam of elements with lovely melodies and gentle humor that still manages to entertain. Mozart would perfect this recipe nearly a decade later in his last Singspiel, "The Magic Flute". Die Entfuhrung features a wonderful, fairly complex Act II finale: a dramatic technique Mozart famously utilized with even greater success 4 years later in le Nozze di Figaro. It enables him to heighten the drama while deftly exploring the characters of multiple onstage protagonists simultaneously. This dramatic technique was truly new: a nail into the heart of static opera seria for which the da Ponte operas would be the hammer. It is the source of a new Romantic spirit in music, the full flowering of which was decades away. And the Turkish elements in the opera represented the continuing fascination of the Viennese with those same Turks who had invaded Austria not too many years earlier. This Turkish exoticism is another element in nascent Romanticism. This humble little Singspiel's importance should not be minimized.
Karl Bohm conducts the Chorus and Orchestra of the Bayerischen Staatsoper with the right balance of serious purpose and light lilting lyricism. This production, staged by August Everding with set and costume design by Max Bignens, was filmed from a live television production relayed on the First Programme (Channel 1) of German television on 25 April 1980. Bohm was nearly 86 years of age at the time and had first conducted this work in 1924. He was a true Mozartean who mastered Mozart's youthful, bubbling music while also revealing the ineffably sad, emotionally ambiguous drama that lays just underneath. It is a volatile mixture that can evaporate or combust in a conductor's face if not approached properly. Mozart has been described as too easy for beginners, too difficult for experts. Bohm was an expert who evoked a beginner's Mozart: he made the difficult sound easy. He is the real star of this excellent DVD.
The singers are superb. Thomas Holtzmann is Selim, Belmonte is Francisco Araiza. Konstanze is Edita Gruberova. Blonde is sung by the wonderful Reri Grist. Pedrillo is sung by Norbert Orth and Osmin is Martti Talvela. The production is relatively traditional, extremely colorful and fun to watch. I've enjoyed it immensely every time I've watched it.
This DVD has a picture format of NTSC color shot fullscreen with a 4:3 format. Region code is 0 worldwide. The film is crystal clear with no discernable video artifacts. It appears to be digitally remastered. Sound formats are PCM stereo and DTS 5.1 Digital Surround sound. Both formats sound great with the DTS Surround providing ambiance from the rear speakers and good spatial location of instruments and voices. Menu language is English. Subtitles are in German, English, French, Spanish and Chinese. Total time of the disc is 146 minutes. There are no extras other than DGG promos.
This is an excellent version of Mozart's Abduction. Those familiar with Karl Bohm know what to expect. Those who don't know him will find this disc a nice introduction. Strongly recommended.
The Last Serious Mozartian.
Abel | Hong Kong | 03/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Karl Bohm is very old by the time he conducted this performance. During curtain calls, he was virtually escorted up the stage by Gruberova and Grist.
For quite some time after Bohm, there weren't many dedicated conductors for Mozart's operas, the most dedicated one being Leopold Hager followed by Nicolas Harnoncourt of Austria.
Edita Gruberova, who sang a lot under Harnoncourt, was just starting her career as a Mozartian in this production. Her Konstanz is very securely delivered, if not outright outstanding. And she was a real gem to watch - voluptuously beautiful in the lowcut cream satin dress.
Francisco Araiza sang Belmonte with a bright, ardent tone that eclipsed second-rate interpretors like Ernst Haefliger before him. His voice hasn't yet grown harsh in this recording, and it is a real treat for the ears, even if his stagecraft was on the stiff side.
Orth and Grist made a charming secondary pair.
The star of this show, however, goes to Martti Talvela as the ominously difficult to sing Osmin.
Talvela is such a joy to watch and a delight to hear - full of comedy and drama. His duet with Reri Grist when he was bathing is outright hilarious and deathly funny. His later duet with Orth is another high light of the opera. Not to mention his final solo aria that demanded a real virtuoso's skill.
This is a very respectable historical production, showing the singers in their prime, and the conductor's veteran skills as a seasoned Mozartian. Any one who misses Bohm and Talvela must get this DVD.
Superbly Staged and Superbly Recorded
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 04/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I didn't expect such a glorious Abduction when I sat down with friends to watch this DVD. Re-releases of such old productions (1980) are often plagued by stiff camera work, unbalanced recording, and/or outmoded vocal technique. This offering from Deutsche Grammophon has none of those flaws. Thus I rushed here to the keyboard, to proclaim the excellence of my "discovery" to the world, only to find that Mike Birman has already written everything I wanted to say, and in 2006! Bravo, Mike!
The only addition I can make is to call attention to the role of Thomas Holtzmann as Pasha Selim, the pivotal character in this operatic sermon of Enlightenment values. Holtzmann conveys just the right measure of despotic arrogance in the first two acts so that his noble gesture of tolerance becomes both powerful and plausible in the third act. After the DVD viewing, I asked my friends what they thought of Selim's singing. They were predictably somewhat reticent; not one of them had realized that Selim never sings. The role of the Pasha is spoken only.
On the other hand, the role of Osmin is so prominent that a good actor can effectively steal the show from the two romantic couples. Martti Talvela was born to sing and act Osmin. A huge bear of a basso, he manages to carry the opera's humor to hilarious extremes without overwhelming or upstaging the fine performances of Reri Grist as his slave Blonde or Norbert Orth and his rival and foil Pedrillo.
If you have a friend who needs to be converted to the joys of opera, and particularly of opera on DVD, you couldn't find a better choice than this flawless evening's entertainment."