Give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters and within about a minute they’ll have produced the name of one of Mozart’s lesser known operas: Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
“Too many notes!” the Emperor Joseph II is famed to have cried after hearing it, which made me concerned that it might bear comparison to the toothache-inducing warbles of Celine Dion and co. Nonetheless, as someone who doesn’t know her libretto from her lederhosen, I was intrigued by what I had read and padded along at the weekend to an introduction to the opera given by director Christine Crouse and conductor Kamal Khan.
Il Seraglio (the rather easier version of the name) was composed in 1782, when Mozart had been in Vienna for just a year. For this ‘Singspiel’ (a comic opera with spoken dialogue) the 26 year old composer created some of his most spectacularly difficult arias. Luckily, there are some outstanding voices in the UCT Opera School all too ready to rise to the challenge. Tip from the top… watch out for these stars of the future: sopranos Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, Siyasanga Mbuyazwe, Maudee Montierre, Lynelle Kenned and Marie Clair de Villiers; tenors Thembinkosi Mgetyengama, Lukhanyo Moyake, Siphesihle Mdena and Xolani Madalane; and bass Phelo Nodlayiya.
We were given some samples during the talk. In particular, an aria by the sparklingly lively Lynelle Kenned hit notes that pierced through my befuddled Saturday morning skull, all delivered with beaming smile that left me deeply impressed.
Production-wise, the setting has been given a pirate twist with sets and costumes by talented young designer Tina Driedijk, who recently scored a great success with her imaginative designs for Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. The villain of the piece, the Pasha Selim, has been cast as a Jack Sparrow type figure, who has abducted the heroine Konstanze and fallen in love with her. It is up to Belmonte, Konstanze’s betrothed, to rescue her from his nefarious clutches…
Sung in German, with English surtitles projected above the stage and English dialogue (in a quirky new translation by Francesco Nassimbeni), the work is generally light-hearted, with little jokes such as a eunuch with the lowest bass voice possible. Ah, Amadeus, you old wit.
And Mozart’s reply to the Emperor? A slightly defensive: “There are just as many notes as there should be.” I think I might just have to judge this for myself.
For the performance details of Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, click here.
NB: Cape Town Opera is running a special offer: attend the second performance of both Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail and the second performance of Weill’s Lost in the Stars and pay only for one. To book this special package please contact Lynda on 021 4109928 or email email@example.com