- Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio), opera, K. 384
This performance of Mozart's opera "Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K. 384," is led by the conductor and countertenor René Jacobs, an artist associated with the historical performance movement, and is accompanied by the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin, an ensemble of which the same is true. It is, however, anything but a historical performance; rather it is one featuring radical innovation. This is the last of a cycle of major Mozart operas by Jacobs, and it offers the fast tempi, tough, vigorous spirit, and dramatic insight that have generally characterized the others. The treatment of Mozart's semi-serious opera about the rescue of a woman held in the compound of a Turkish nobleman, however, is entirely novel. "Die Entführung aus dem Serail" is a Singspiel, a German-language opera in which the vocal numbers are interspersed with spoken dialogue, not recitatives. Jacobs has personally rewritten this dialogue into straightforward contemporary German, and if that weren't enough, accompanies it with fortepiano improvisations that comment on the action. This has a very curious effect akin to the texture of a silent film, and it's going to rub listeners in necessarily individual ways. Jacobs' aim is to get rid of the stop-start quality endemic to the Singspiel, and it must be said that whatever you think of the method, he accomplishes his goal. The best way to look at this performance is that if you take it on its own terms, it succeeds. Cutting the pauses between the dialogue sections and the arias down to a fraction of a second, Jacobs creates natural transitions between the dialogue and the set pieces. This quality is set against the spectacular vocal virtuosity of the music, and the effect is of a basic flow that from time to time explodes into technical fireworks like Konstanze's "Martern aller Arten" (CD one, track 22). Sample soprano Robin Johannsen here; to these ears, she's remarkable. In general, without performers who were as persuasive as actors as they were as singers, this interpretation would have been disastrous. But Jacobs shapes the whole thing into what he wants. It may still be too strange for you, but it's bold in the best way.