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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Anderson    CRUELTY SCORNED

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Mozart set about the work under pressure: it was originally to be performed among the welcome offerings of Joseph II for Grand Duke Paul of Russia and his wife Maria Feodorovna, travelling as Count and Countess of the North. The performance was postponed, so Mozart was able to indulge his genius at ever-expanding length. Paul eventually heard the work, but clearly forgot any lesson from Selim's admirable clemency when ultimately ascending the throne as absolute tsar. The British ambassador, under the impression of an imperial decree that recalcitrant nobles might be flogged, branded, or have their nostrils slit, considered him 'literally not in his senses'.

Kurt Rydl as Osmin and Malin Hartelius as Blonde in Mozart's 'Die Entführung aus dem Serail'. DVD screenshot © Schwetzinger Festspiele/SWR/NHK/Maran Film GmbH
Kurt Rydl as Osmin and Malin Hartelius as Blonde in Mozart's 'Die Entführung aus dem Serail'. DVD screenshot © Schwetzinger Festspiele/SWR/NHK/Maran Film GmbH

What a relief to bask in the sunshine of the Turkish coast as imagined by Michael Hampe for the 1991 Schwetzingen Festival production and seen originally in Cologne and Nice. The Belmonte of Hans Peter Blochwitz has just landed in search of his pirated Konstanze (Ruth Ann Swenson); but the sea trip has in no way impaired his delivery of an exacting initial aria [watch and listen -- chapter 3, 5:33-6:55]. A main obstacle to his rescue plan is the ample figure of Kurt Rydl's Osmin, already deeply suspicious of the pasha's apparent favour to the troublesome Pedrillo, humble companion in misfortune to Konstanze and soon to be revealed as Belmonte's faithful servant [watch and listen -- chapter 5, 15:40-17:12].

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Copyright © 14 June 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK

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