Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Die Entführung aus dem Serail
CAST: Bassa Selim: Thomas Quasthoff, Belmonte: Rolando Villazón, Konstanze: Diana Damrau, Blonde: Anna Prohaska, Pedrillo: Paul Schweinester, Osmin: Franz-Josef Selig
Vocalensemble Rastatt (Chorus master: Holger Speck)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 2015
After the live recordings of Don Giovanni in 2012 and of Così fan tutte in 2013, the present Die Entführung aus dem Serail is the third part of the Mozart project that involves tenor Rolando Villazón and conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin. It was recorded during a concert in Baden Baden in 2014 and it seems to confirm once and for all that the presence of the Mexican tenor in this repertoire will be constant (it is enough to remember that two years later he and Nézet-Séguin will add another instalment with the recording of Le nozze di Figaro). The question, anyway, is if Villazon has approached too late this repertoire, as Mozart’s music is not only demanding for the singers, but it also highlights any possible technical flaw.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail: Rolando Villazon (Belmonte)
Villazon is not the tenor of some years ago. Despite the fact that he tries with indefatigable obstinacy to fight against his decline (to which his serious illness contributed), the weariness of his voice is too much clear to be ignored. Even though there are few passages where his musicianship allows him to sing smoothly enough (especially in the most lyrical passages of the first aria and of the beautiful, tender Konstanze, Konstanze!), for most of the time Villazon’s singing is uneasy and confused and his excess of energy when he has to hit a high note gives the impression that his registers do not connect smoothly.
In addition to this, imprecision and a certain anxiety when the rhythm is a little more animated (as in the last part of the duet with Osmin at the beginning of the opera) compromise his performance further. Overall, Villazon’s Belmonte cannot be considered but passable.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail: Diana Damrau (Konstanze)
Diana Damrau, on the contrary, is the ideal Konstanze. It is really a good fortune that she sings in this Entführung. She has performed the role many times before this (her debut dates to 2003) and her familiarity with it is evident.
Damrau’s technique is sound and her temperament is lively. In a certain sense, it is inevitable that her coloratura is spectacular and her high notes are luminous and sparkling. She is able to give prominence not only to the virtuosic aspects of the role – as in the famous aria Marten aller arten, which Damrau seems to sing in one breath – but also to Konstanze’s despair in her other aria, Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose.
As one might expect from a German singer, Damrau’s diction is perfect. It is really a pleasure to listen to her even in the dialogues as her interpretation is equally wonderful in acting and singing.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail: the Other Singers and the Conduction
Anna Prohaska, for her part, is a correct but pale Blonde. She sings the right notes, but with just a vague interest for what she is doing. There is no verve, no spirit in a character who is usually joyful and light-hearted: Welche Wonne, welche Lust does not have the slightest sign of happiness. Here there is nothing more than good musicianship, but Prohaska’s singing is just routine. Paul Schweinester as Pedrillo is better, even though he is not particularly deep in the portrayal of his character too. Franz-Josef Selig would have been the perfect Osmin thanks to his dark and cultivated voice, but in my personal opinion he lacks that “savage” and evil tone that belongs to the grumpy and rude guardian.
Nézet-Séguin’s conduction is only partially convincing as it alternates moments of inspiration and liveliness to others where his direction is not as clearly defined.