Abduction from the concert

Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail.  Konstanze – Susan Gritton.  Blonde – Malin Christensson.  Belmonte – Frédéric Antoun.  Pedrillo – Tilman Lichdi.  Osmin – Alastair Miles.  Narrator – Simon Buteriss.  Joyful Company of Singers and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / Bernard Labadie.  Concert Performance.  Queen Elizabeth Hall, London – Wednesday, November 24th, 2010. 

Entführung can be quite a challenging work to bring of in the theatre, although I have yet to see Bieito’s production at the Komische Oper, Berlin but I do hope to see it very soon.  I took this opportunity to enjoy a concert performance of the work with an excellent cast this evening and it was well worth going to.  For this performance the dialogue was replaced by a narration written and delivered by Simon Buteriss.  It was an admirable solution although perhaps it might have been better to perform the work in English as I found it occasionally disconcerting to be constantly switching between English and German.  The narration itself was extremely witty and amusing and Buteriss delivered it with aplomb. 

The singing on the whole was top drawer.  Frédéric Antoun was a superb Belmonte.  His tenor reminded me a little of Léopold Simoneau and his German with a slight Québécois accent was charming.  His tone was even throughout the range and he was always utterly musical.  He was also a great foil to Tilman Lichdi’s Pedrillo.  I got the impression that his was a more lived in interpretation – perhaps as the only German in the cast he was able to get a lot more out of the words and felt more of a connection with them.  What I especially liked was the way that the two had clearly different timbres, something that isn’t always the case in this piece. 

Susan Gritton was a brave Konstanze.  It is true that the fiendish vocal writing found her at the edge of her limits and occasionally crossed them.  I felt for her at times because it was audibly a stretch but that just added to the performance and she rose to ‘Marten aller Arten’ with great class.  Malin Christensson was also a very good Blonde.  

The only two disappointments were Alistair Miles’ Osmin and the underpowered chorus.  Miles was far too attached to his score and it was clear that this was not a role that is in his repertory.  He was obviously working very hard, it’s just that it was equally clear that he was not quite in full command of the role.  It also seems churlish to point out that he didn’t quite have all of the low notes the part demands.  I should however point out that he was a late replacement for the originally scheduled Tim Mirfin.  The Chorus was sadly not up to the job.  I understand that the Joyful Company of Singers is a very good choir but here there were just not enough of them – 25 – and they could not carry over the volume of the orchestra.  Rather then being a highlight of the work, the choruses were really underpowered.  I missed a big opera chorus sound here. 

The OAE played splendidly.  Apart from some unfortunate horn moments, the playing was outstanding.  Labadie’s conducting was also superb and tempi were well-chosen.  The only two that dragged were the slower sections of ‘Marten aller Arten’ and the penultimate duet – I feel that he should have pushed things forward a little at these points.  Otherwise it was a great evening and highly recommendable to those who might consider seeing it now that it is going on a brief European tour.

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