Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Glyndebourne - tour)
David McVicar's summer triumph is given a patchy autumn revival
Maybe they set the bar too high at the 2015 summer festival (five-star WhatsOnStage review here), but this early reprise for the Glyndebourne Tour is a disappointment. In a matter of weeks the company's opulent staging of Mozart's darkly comic Singspiel has gone from razor-sharp to semi-bland.
David McVicar's ultra-complete Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) has been trimmed in duration to meet the practicalities of touring, yet at a new running time of just over three hours, including two intervals, it actually feels longer than before.
Mozart's telling of adventurer Belmonte's heroic foray into the Ottoman Empire has beauty, balefulness and bounce, plus a clutch of the most enchanting arias ever composed. The Spaniard's quest, to rescue the lovely Konstanze from the clutches of Pasha Selim and his evil henchman, Osmin, can seem a little delicate nowadays, but McVicar tackles it without a trace of fastidiousness amid designs by Vicki Mortimer that conceal and reveal an array of exotic delights.
Christoph Altstaedt conducts a typically clean, bright-sounding Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra with impressive flair, adopting lively tempos and exhibiting meticulous attention to detail. He also provides the singers with a visible cradling, so it's a pity for him that his U.S.-dominated cast is such a mixed bag.
Silken-voiced Ben Bliss sings with enviable technical aplomb but on this showing his acting skills are moderate at best and he offers little by way of dramatic vocal coloration. The tenor's fellow countryman James Kryshak is a better bet: he brings lyricism, energy and a well-judged sense of fun to the role of cheeky servant Pedrillo.
With the women it's a similar picture. Romanian soprano Ana Maria Labin makes very heavy weather of Konstanze, a part that Rebecca Nelsen, who sings Blonde here, performed so radiantly at Garsington two years ago (where she sang "Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose" while being put through her paces by a personal trainer!). Needless to say, Nelsen is a vocal joy as the feisty maid and her knockabout kitchen routine with Clive Bayley's snarling Osmin is a riot.
Indeed, whenever there's a choice it's the comic stuff that dominates Ian Rutherford's fitfully enjoyable revival. He makes the show more cartoonish than I remember it; yet there are choice moments to savour and Bayley, whose melodious timbre is pure class, contrives one blissful triple-take. What a pity that Franck Saurel, reprising his turn as Selim, has taken to injecting excruciatingly drawn-out pauses into his spoken delivery. Words need to be said.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail plays in repertoire at Glyndebourne until 29 October, then tours to Canterbury, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Plymouth and Woking until 5 December.