Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Die Entführung aus dem Serail – Bayerischer Staatsoper, Munich, 1980 (Part 1: Time to Get Down On Your Knees!)

The booklet with this DVD of Die Entführung aus dem Serail contains liner notes from 1980 that defend the idea of opera on film. Nowadays, we take it for granted—film or video being medium through which most of us get to experience more “live” opera than we otherwise would. I appreciated the 1980s camera work, which captured the live experience well. I noticed when fast-forwarding that there are not a lot of edits, or different camera angles. The camera lingers so that you really do get a sense of watching a staged production.

Though by all appearances a traditional performance, apparently this production was controversial in 1980 due to the addition of some slapstick humor. I didn't perceive a lot of that beyond a bit of silliness with the guards and the ladder—some “keystone kops” antics, and when Pedrillo carries the drunk Osmin (twice his size) off stage on his back.

Marsch, Marsch, Marsch! (Trio Finale to Act 1)

The set consists primarily of telescoping flats to represent various interior and exterior parts of the palace. It's representational but not at all literal. The flats open and close for various scenes, to suggest different locales. This apparently was another “innovation” for the Munich audience. One bit that distracted me was that the shutters of upper windows kept opening and closing—not always at logical times. I finally noticed faces in the darkness when the shutters opened.  We are all being watched? (on further viewing, I realized that indeed is the idea!) For certain arias (Marten aller Arten) the set just disappears,  suspending the singer(s) in time and space.

Overall this performance, though sung beautifully, left a fairly bland impression on me.  Here is the quartet finale to Act 2. What follows are reflections on the individual singers and on specific actions within the opera. 

Rare photo of
Karl Bohm smiling!
Konstanze sings her Act 2 aria Traurigkeit while simply standing in a window. It is such wonderful singing and a beautiful moment of repose, that the static staging doesn't seem so static. And following immediately after, (what was Mozart thinking?) she sings Martern aller Arten. I always had an intellectual understanding of the staging issues with the 2 minute instrumental introduction to this aria. Now I really see it. Here the video director fills some of the time by showing Böhm conducting (his interpretation alone makes this disc noteworthy. I wouldn't have minded seeing the instrumental soloists a bit, too.) 

Edita Gruberova
So what happens on stage?  Konstanze has to look sad, pleading, defiant, etc. to fill the time. Edita Gruberova actually does a good job of this. One can understand why, even though her voice has lost some of its bloom of more than 30 years ago, people still flock to see her perform.  A most effective moment is when she drops to the floor and walks towards Selim on her knees. He leaves while she is still singing, and when she is done, she exits directly upstage, towards the sea. Is she going to keep walking right into the water? 

No, she takes a hard right, goes off stage, comes back for a mid-act curtain call, then gets ready for the rest of the opera. I will cover that in the next day or so. 

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