Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K. 384
Yelda Kodalli, soprano, (Konstanze), Paul Groves, tenor, (Belmonte), Désirée Rancantore, soprano, (Blonde), Peter Rose, bass, (Osmin), Lynton Atkinson, tenor, (Pedrillo), Oliver Tobias, speaker (Pasha Selim), Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus, Scottish Chamber Orch/ Sir Charles Mackerras, cond.
 
Telarc CD-80544 (2 CDs) ( F) (DDD) TT: 2:12:04
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This new recording of Mozart’s  The Abduction from the Seraglio has much to recommend it. Sir Charles Mackerras, one of the finest Mozart conductors, leads a vigorous and stylish performance of this brilliant singspiel. The “Turkish” percussion effects are given their full due in the Overture and elsewhere. Typical of Mackerras, an expert accompanist, he gives his singers ample room to make their interpretive points without disrupting the musical flow. This is certainly one of the better-conducted Abductions on disc.

The women in the cast are also quite strong. Soprano Yelda Kodalli is an admirable Konstanze. Her voice retains an attractive quality throughout its range, even when negotiating the role’s fiendish coloratura. There is also ample temperament in her interpretation. One can well understand Pasha Selim and Belmonte’s infatuation with this Konstanze. The Blonde of soprano Désirée Rancantore possesses many of the same qualities, and she demonstrates a lively flair for comedy.

The male side of the ledger is, unfortunately, less impressive. Paul Groves, the Belmonte, possesses a lyric tenor voice that is quite lovely in its middle and upper registers. However, the voice loses color and point as it moves downward. Groves also has some difficulty cleanly executing Belmonte’s florid writing. Perhaps because of a preoccupation with technical matters, Groves offers little in the way of characterization. For a glorious demonstration of an artist surmounting the hurdles imposed by Mozart, all the while giving full due to the beauty and passion of Belmonte’s music, try the superb Fritz Wunderlich, for my money (along with Léopold Simoneau), the greatest Mozart tenor of the past century.  Wunderlich’s Belmonte is available via a DGG studio recording and a 1965 Salzburg performance (Orfeo).

Peter Rose, a singer with an attractive, albeit lightweight basso cantante, has no difficulty with Osmin’s virtuoso writing. Rose’s Osmin, however, must be the most polite on disc. Osmin is a character who presents a fascinating mixture of danger and buffoonery. Neither of those aspects emerges in Rose’s interpretation. It’s almost as if Sarastro wandered into the harem.

Lynton Atkinson is an involved, full-voiced Pedrillo. In fact, his tenor sounds every bit as appropriate for the role of Belmonte as does that of Paul Groves. That creates its own problems, inasmuch as Pedrillo should exist as a comic foil to the more heroic Belmonte. The speaking role of Pasha Selim is nobly handled by Oliver Tobias.

Of added interest are the original, uncut versions of Constanze’s and Blonde’s Act II arias (two apiece). Also featured is the original version of Belmonte’s “Wenn der Freude Tränen fliessen.” However, the performance itself uses the familiar shortened version: the original version is included in an appendix to the second disc. In the liner notes, Mackerras explains, “such a long aria at the first moment the lovers meet after many days of separation is hardly appropriate.” If you disagree with Sir Charles’ assessment, a programmable CD player will allow you to substitute the original, longer version into the body of the performance.

The recorded sound is excellent. All in all, the new Telarc Abduction is an enjoyable, and intriguing --  not uniformly first-rate -- traversal of this gorgeous work.

K.M.