Mozart – Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
Konstanze – Robin Johannsen
Blonde – Mari Eriksmoen
Belmonte – Maximilian Schmitt
Pedrillo – Julian Prégardien
Osmin – Dimitry Ivashchenko
Bassa Selim – Cornelius Obonya
Cappella Amsterdam, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin / René Jacobs
Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. Saturday, September 20th, 2014.
René Jacobs is for me the finest Mozart conductor around. In Jacobs’ hands, Mozart’s music becomes a living, breathing entity something that has personality and humanity. He achieves this by a wonderfully generous use of ornamentation, scrupulous attention to the musical text, and by tempo choices that might initially seem surprising but always feel absolutely right. Listening to a Jacobs’ performance always makes it feel like I’m listening to the music for the very first time. Last year I was lucky to be at an unforgettable performance of Le Nozze di Figaro in Paris. If today’s Entführung for me was not quite the life-changing event that the Figaro was, it is no fault of the excellent performance but rather the nature of Mozart’s Singspiel
Hearing the work in the wonderful Amsterdam Concertgebouw meant that the singers had a very grateful acoustic to work in. This concert performance followed recording sessions in Berlin last month and the recording will definitely be worth listening to when it is released. Indeed, I think that Robin Johannsen’s Konstanze will certainly come across better on the recording that it did live. Hers is a highly-accomplished technique, able to tackle all of the intricate writing in ‘Martern aller Arten’ with ease and she added some highly tasteful decorations to the final ensemble. Yet the voice is small and lacks a distinctive vocal timbre. I felt she would have been more comfortable as Blonde. She’s a useful singer and certainly one I would like to hear again but here, I felt she was mis-cast. Maximilian Schmitt is the owner of an elegant and well-schooled tenor. It took him a little while to warm up but he dispatched ‘ich baue ganz’ with easy breath control if perhaps not the ultimate fluency in the more florid passages.
Julian Prégardien was a witty and beautifully-sung Pedrillo. Within the context of a concert performance, he and Mari Eriksmoen’s Blonde really brought the work to life. I came across Eriksmoen as a fabulous Olympia in Oslo last year and once again she proves that she really is an exceptional talent. The voice is instantly distinctive, a combination of peaches and cream with a charming duskiness, wonderful flexibility throughout the range and a solid technique that today, seemingly had no limits. The voice carries well and she is an engaging and vivacious stage presence. Eriksmoen is without doubt a major artist and a singer to watch.
Dimitry Ivashchenko offered us an Osmin that was a real flesh and blood character. He dispatched all of his music with total fluency and a strong bottom. Cornelius Obonya was a nicely ironic Selim. The chorus offered us a big and bold yet well-blended sound which worked well in the choruses. The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin gave us characterful playing, utterly secure, with the winds and percussion especially standing out. Jacobs’ conducting, as expected, felt absolutely right. Tempi felt quite conventional on the whole but that scintillating use of ornamentation was very much there.
The work was performed in a mise en espace that certainly managed to help it transcend the limits of a concert performance. The dialogue was used in full and this perhaps where the performance didn’t quite catch fire. The problem was that it had a tendency to sag between the musical numbers – some of the artists like Prégardien, Eriksmoen and Ivashchenko managed to transcend that through sheer stage-presence but I couldn’t help but think that the show would have benefitted from a little trimming of the dialogue for the concert performance.
René Jacobs will be conducting Don Giovanni in various cities next year including Barcelona and Paris. Anyone who loves Mozart needs to hear it.