Die Entführung aus dem Serail
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Libretto by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner
with adaptations by Johann Gottlieb Stephanie the younger
Sung in German with English supertitles


First performed in Vienna in 1782, the plot of this Mozart opera seems very silly.  Spanish noblewoman Konstanze has been abducted by pirates together with her English maid Blonde and her valet Pedrillo.  They are all sold in slavery to the Pasha Selim in Ottoman Turkey.  The Pasha has a harem but he is in love with Konstanze who is in love with Belmonte.  Belmonte plans to abduct Konstanze and Blonde.  He disguises himself as an architect to ingratiate himself to the Pasha and enter his palace.  So far so pantomime.  However the opera takes the ridiculous to quite another level and, although it revels in commedia dell’arte techniques which seem simplistic, it has a satisfying political and humane narrative drive.

Enlightenment thinkers were fascinated by ‘the Orient’.  Indeed the clash between Islamic and Christian values were a major focus for artists and philosophers when Mozart wrote the opera.  The cliché of the terrible Turk still has resonances in France where the croissant eaten for breakfast, epitomises the Islamic crescent.  This opera refuses to deal with clichés and the Pasha is created as a Muslim who is humanist .  He is far from the revengeful Turk though his servant Osmin is the opposite.   His desire for the murder of Christians is bloody indeed.  ‘Erst geköpft, dann gehangen, dann gespießt auf heiße Stangen, dann verbrannt, dann gebunden, und getaucht, zuletzt geschunden’ (‘First beheaded, then hanged, then spitted on hot skewers, then burned, then bound, and drowned, and finally skinned’).  However he is depicted as a comic figure and therefore not to be taken seriously.  What is strange now is how topical that song feels when we read of Daish’s barbarous crimes.

David McVicar’s production is highly intelligent and nuanced.  He manages to suggest modern parallels without ever stating any.  Designer Vicki Mortimer creates a versatile and imaginative décor.  The Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra is magnificent and Christoph Altstaedt conducts with muscular fervour as well as sensitivity.  Glyndebourne has selected a brilliant cast.  Rebecca Nelsen’ as Blonde, the English maid is a cartwheeling soubrette of humour and gutsiness.  Ana Maria Labin as Konstanze has a power that makes her a great artiste.  Frank Saurel’s Pasha Selim bares a gym-trained physique and his voice is as toned as his pecs.  Saurel is a fine actor as well as a thrilling singer.  Clive Bayley as the comic villain Osmin transcends the stereotype in his comic range.  James Kryashak has great charm as the valet Pedrillo and Ben Bliss’ Belmonte is a faulted hero who is able to express poignancy and machismo with equal strength.

This is a provocative opera for our times.  It is beautiful, funny and disturbing.

Glyndebourne Tour

Lewes Glyndebourne
Date Start time Finish time
Sunday 25 October 4:00pm 7:15pm
Thursday 29 October 6:30pm 9:45pm
Canterbury, The Marlowe Theatre
Date Start time Finish time
Wednesday 4 November 7:15pm 10:30pm
Saturday 7 November 7:15pm 10:30pm
Milton Keynes Theatre
Date Start time Finish time
Wednesday 11 November 7:15pm 10:30pm
Saturday 14 November 7:15pm 10:30pm
Theatre Royal, Norwich
Date Start time Finish time
Wednesday 18 November 7:15pm 10:30pm
Saturday 21 November 7:15pm 10:30pm
Theatre Royal, Plymouth
Date Start time Finish time
Wednesday 25 November 7:15pm 10:30pm
Saturday 28 November 7:15pm 10:30pm
New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Date Start time Finish time
Tuesday 1 December 7:15pm 10:30pm
Saturday 5 December 7:15pm 10:30pm



Julia Pascal © 2015.