Thursday, November 15, 2012

Die Entführung aus dem Serail – Stuttgart, 1998 (Part 2: Buy One, Get One Free)

Konstanze & Belmonte 2 (far L & R)
congratulate the singers after a
lovely performance of the Act 2 Finale.
Double casting Entführung (or any opera) raises questions. What's the difference between the singing and the acting on stage? What separates the singers from the actors? What brings them together? Are we supposed to recognize each pair as playing one character? Don't you just love it when my reviews degenerate into a list of questions?

The Stuttgart Opera's double-casting of this opera lets us see more sides of each character. (Singing) Belmonte 1 is very emotional. (Speaking) Belmonte 2 is a super-cautious, calming influence, who also embodies Belmonte’s fears and general lack of worldly wisdom. I think he's in love with Belmonte 1, too.  Konstanze 1 is braver than Konstanze 2, whose default reaction is to faint, run away, or call Konstanze 1 for assistance. In the final confrontation with Selim, Konstanze 2 is too afraid to speak, and Konstanze 1 yells at her, “Coward!”
Pedrillo 1 & 2 are both pretty clever. They argue a lot with each other—right from their first entrance—but they also are the pair who most recognize how their two sides work together—after drinking Osmin under the table, one says to the other, "It's a good thing there are two of us!" Blonde 1 & 2 are most alike of the four pairs. I am not sure if this means she has it together better than everyone else, or is just shallow. Both Blondes are pretty self-assured, although Blonde 1 tends to come to the aid of Blonde 2 a lot. 

I said “four pairs” and I really meant five. Osmin 1 & 2 are worlds apart, making him a more complex (and to me, more sympathetic) character. Osmin 2 is younger, slimmer, rougher, and dumber; while Osmin 1, is more "grown up" and genuinely cares for Blonde. He actually tries (a little) to woo her.
Blonde(s) read Osmin(s) the riot act.

Generally the singing characters are more self-sufficient and sturdy than their speaking counterparts. The speaking cast, by the time we get to the finale, is getting run down. They try singing with the final “Bassa Selim” chorus, and wilt as they sing. It’s as if the production is telling them they are unnecessary. In fact, this production makes a point of the fact that Selim is the only non-singing character, and there
 is only one of him onstage. It seems if only he could sing, then maybe Konstanze would love him. So once again, we have an Entfürhung about Selim. 

The speaking half of the cast collapses
while trying to sing the final chorus.
Throughout the opera (Singspiel) we get the sense that Konstanze is not totally repelled by Selim, and not totally sold on Belmonte. Konstanze 1 has been looking doubtful all along, and Konstanze 2 has exhibited care, love, fear, and reverence for Selim from the start. He's not unattractive or totally nasty, which makes her quandary even more believable.

Which brings us back to self-consciousness: So, the closing chorus is met with total silence. The lack of applause is deafening.  Then Selim speaks. When he finishes reciting his poem (which really perks up the speaking cast), Konstanze 1 tells him, “That was wonderful, Selim.” And he says, “Thank You. Konstanze. Thank you.” He finally feels requited. She has given him the acknowledgement (love) that he so craves. But is it Selim seeking this approval?  Or is it the actor?

After this final exchange, the screen goes dark on Konstanze's confused expression.  Maybe she won't be leaving with Belmonte after all. 

Who knows?

Credits roll in silence. No curtain calls. 

It feels unresolved. Maybe that's the point. 

Because I generally prefer things that feel resolved, 
I am closing this post with the finale to Act 2 - 
a big concert piece staged as...a concert!

You can find a few more clips from this performance (and thoughtful commentary) over at the Earworm's opera blog.

Read Part 1

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