Classical & Opera: Eastern promise

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Die Entfuhrung may not trip off the tongue as Mozart's best-known work, but Glyndebourne Touring Opera are taking another crack at the proble- matic tale of a Turkish harem

Until relatively recently, Mozart's status as an operatic composer revolved around four works, the three collaborations with Da Ponte - Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte - and The Magic Flute. Yet three more operas by him have now been added to that core repertoire: the two opera serias, Idomeneo and La Clemenza di Tito, and the singspiel, Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail or The Abduction from the Harem.

By Mozart's standards, the composition of Die Entfuhrung took an unusually long time to complete, partly because he made the move from Salzburg to Vienna while writing it. As such, it could be said to be a transitional work, poised between Mozart's highly precocious early phase and his full maturity. Belamonte, a Spanish nobleman, sails to Turkey to search for his beloved Constanze who has been abducted by corsairs to inhabit the harem of Bassa Selim. A potentially rollicking good yarn, maybe, but part of Die Entfuhrung's problem has always been its somewhat undistinguished dramaturgy, not helped by a tedious and lacklustre rhyming text. The words are by a certain Gottlieb Stephanie, themselves adapted from a pre-existing libretto. One very immediate pitfall is that the Pasha himself is only granted a speaking role, thus allowing for little musical opposition between the key factions involved.

It has been remarked that there has probably never been a really satisfactory production of Die Entfuhrung, though if anyone has tried their utmost it must be Glyndebourne's outgoing director of production, Aidan Lang. He has made the opera one of his specialities, even directing it in the harem of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. For this long-awaited Glyndebourne revival, Lang's direction takes place against designer William Dudley's lavish and exotic set. Richard Farnes conducts the equally exotic score, replete with vivid Turkish music, "borrowed" from the genre of French opera comique.

Glyndebourne Touring Opera's staging of Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail opens at the Glyndebourne Opera House (01273 813813) on 10 Oct at 7pm for a short season before touring throughout the autumn to Woking, Oxford, Manchester and Plymouth

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