Financial Times: Aug 07, 2003
Richard Fairman
Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Salzburg 2003
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Salzburg Festival
Some opera companies will tell you there is no point in having a half-bad production any more. If they land a real stinker, at least they can wear it as a badge of pride.

This year's Salzburg Festival has acquired a very large badge. It is called Die Entführungaus dem Serail, though it bears only a passing resemblance to Mozart's opera of the same name. The producer, Stefan Herheim, has had ideas and somebody needs to tell him not to let it happen again.

In this version a naked young couple emerge from the shadows to learn of the trials and tribulations of love. Belmonte auditions for a top-hat-and-cane song-and-dance routine. Blonde loves her washing machine and bakes a wedding cake. Osmin goes on television and does a striptease during a Punch and Judy show. The black and white minstrels put in an appearance.

Trust me - you don't want to know any more. Herheim thinks he has a meaningful lesson to impart about human fidelity. All the audience learns is not to waste its money on a witless show such as this again. One felt sorry for Jonas Kaufmann, a good young tenor trapped in an uncongenial role as Belmonte, who copped much of the audience's displeasure. The Costa Rican soprano Iride Martinez is a find, technically flawless and elegant as Konstanze. Diana Damrau's Blonde and Dietmar Kerschbaum's Pedrillo make a bright supporting couple and Peter Rose deserves a bonus for not only singing Osmin so well, but undergoing numerous indignities with such good humour. Thankfully, the music was in the safe and joyous hands of conductor Ivor Bolton and the stylish Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg.

When this run of performances is over, they should all creep off to a big empty garage somewhere, away from the booing, catcalls and Herheim's inanities, and perform the opera for themselves just to feel how heavenly Mozart can still be. It is a good cast and do not deserve this.

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