IF the story contained in this opera was to appear on one of the film channels on television it would undoubtedly has a pre showing warning that it contains racially discriminatory language and out of date social images that might be offensive to some viewers. The producers of this show did not think it was a necessary to print such a warning in their programme, having faith in their audiences to use their own judgement and appreciate that an opera written in 1782 was quite likely to reflect the way in which the mid- european society of that period would look at and respond to what they thought of as other ill educated heathen societies.
In fact showing remarkable foresight of how present day society views other peoples and civilizations Mozart, who had a great deal of input into
Gottlieb Stephanie’s libretto, showed the supposed villain of the piece Pasha Selim, who had spent the entire evening trying to convince the captive Spanish girl Konstanze to embrace his way of life and love, to be more civilized and understanding than the more educated Belmonte and Pedrillo, who plot to repatriate their respective lady loves Konstanze and Blonde, her maid.
A singspiel (sing-play) opera where sections of the spoken word are sometimes as important as the musical contributions the principles have to show acting skills to match their vocal skills.
In the case of Pasha Selim, who has no musical input, the character has to be built via the limited dialogue at his disposal and reaction to the drama and humour being delivered musically. What started as a would be pantomime villain Alex Andreou’s Pasha turned into a man of great dignity and stature, giving Lucy Hall’s Konstanze every reason to respect him, despite her rejections of his romantic advances. .
Vocally she blended well, and drew an attractive romanic partnership with John-Colyn Gyeantey as her lover Belmonte. After a start that would have benefited from a more open sound John showed an aptitude for comedy as well as drama as he and Richard Pinkstone, a performance full of sly well timed humour as Pedrillo, plotted the escape of Konstanze and her feisty maid Blonde. In this role Nazan Fikret was in scene stealing mood teasing and twisting the Pasha’s bullying security chief Osmin round her little finger. The scene where she viciously messaged the prone Osmin was musically satisfying and visually a comedy delight.
Dramatically as well as vocally, Osmin is a wide ranging role, and although occasionally Matthew Stiff found the very bottom of the register a little trying he covered this range well going from broad comedy to high drama as he called for the death of the four young lovers.
Backing the singers was a perfectly balanced Orchestra with Conductor John Andrews always in full control they supplied an ideal sound for this theatre and score. And this was matched by an expertly beautifully designed set from Adam Wiltshire. Built on a large revolving truck this gave the illusion that the scenes were far more elaborately dressed than they actually were.
Showing a deft touch director Stephen Medcalf kept the action and humour flowing without giving the impression that he was interfering in the freedom of the cast to bring their own personalities to the roles. The result was a production that could have been designed and produced with this specific theatre in mind.