Cher Public

Project runway

Some ideas are so absurd that the only way to describe them is to simply use the liner notes: “On 26 August 2013, Hangar-7 of Salzburg Airport was transformed into a vibrant cultural venue for a special live broadcast of Mozart’s Enführung aus dem Serail in a coproduction for television with ServusTV. Amidst the historic collection of Flying Bulls aerobatic aircraft and Formula One racing cars, and making full use of the area set aside for art exhibitions, the Ikarus Restaurant, the Outdoor Lounge bars and cafe, Hangar-7 was turned into an opera stage for the evening.”   

The concept of director Adrian Marthaler for this DVD: It’s fashion week at the airport. The Turkish harem is really a fashion show. Hoardes of people are standing around I guess waiting to see the latest designer creations.  Konstanze is a supermodel, Blonde a makeup artist at the fashion show. Selim Pasha is a fashion designer. Osmin is his assistant. Belmonte is … I don’t know who the hell he is. Some guy who bought a ticket to fashion week?

But the concept is rather inconsistently applied, as Konstanze isn’t wearing the kind of haute couture supermodels would be wearing if she were really going to do a run down a catwalk. Instead she’s wearing ball gowns that opera singers might don if they were to sing at the Richard Tucker Gala. Also, why are Konstanze and Blonde so trapped if they’re in an airport? Can’t they run to a terminal and book a flight? Of course all’s well that ends well and the production ended with—you guessed it—a catwalk.

Mozart’s opera is about men who feel sexually proprietary about their women. In this production  Pasha Selim and Osmin are both directed to be stereotypically gay fashion mavens. From what I know about fashion designers they do feel very proprietary about their female models and their actresses but those feelings are not sexual.

Without the element of sexual suspense (will Konstanze and Blonde succumb to pressure and let Osmin and Selim have their way with them?) the opera loses much of its dark sinister edge. It also makes nonsense of a lot of the text. Maybe that’s why so much of the dialogue is trimmed. But still, you have to wonder why Konstanze is singing of such desperate feelings when she’s walking down a catwalk.

This concept might have worked better if Hangar-7 was transformed into a movie set and Osmin and Selim were movie directors. Konstanze and Blonde could be victims of the infamous Hollywood casting couch.

Some musical choices are questionable. The dialogue is snipped to almost nothing—30 seconds here, 30 seconds there, giving this production even more of a concert opera feel. It was apparently decided that the singers should wear stadium-style face earpieces and mikes. Hans Graf is occasionally seen leading the orchestra in another part of the airport but the sound balance is poor. The whole concept feels rather gimmicky and half-baked.

The cast is very uneven. Javier Camarena (Belmonte) brings his usual attributes to the role: sweet timbre, stylish singing. He might not be entirely comfortable with the German language, because his dialogue is snipped even more than the other roles. Also, the “acting” doesn’t call for him to do much but walk around aimlessly around the airport in a tux. His singing of “Wenn der Freude” while walking up the aisle of a jet might be the most “effects without causes” thing I’ve ever seen in any production, ever.

Kurt Rydl (Osmin) is quite frankly awful—wobbly and weak-toned. His voice projects absolutely no authority or menace. Tobias Moretti in the speaking role of the Pasha has his part trimmed to almost nothing, so what can he do but camp it up like a flaming fashion designer?

If the director wanted to go with the Konzept that Konstanze wants to torture her captors into releasing her than they picked the right soprano. Desiree Rancatore screams, and then she screams some more. “Martern aller Arten” sounds like a Susan Alexander Kane B-side. If she were a great actress maybe her vocal shrillness and obvious discomfort with the high notes would be less of a problem but she doesn’t do much besides pout and sulk. She looks pretty, so there’s that.

Much more simpatico is Rebecca Nelsen as Blonde and Thomas Ebenstein as Pedrillo. Very charming voices, and cute acting too.  The Act 2 quartet is notable for the contrast between K/B and B/P. Rancatore and Camarena act like strangers, Nelsen and Ebenstein as lovers.

This obviously was designed to be a big Event, as big as well, fashion week. Maybe it was exciting to watch on TV. Who knows. Musically and dramatically this Abduction belongs in the dustbin.