Mozart’s The Escape from the Harem is difficult to bring off because it seems so elementary. For a start, the plot is stock. Constanze and her English maid Blonde  are being held by their respective suitors the Pasha Selim and his chief eunuch Osmin, when their Christian lovers, Belmonte and his servant Pedrillo, sail to the rescue.

The production team has to juggle a music hall plot with cultural insights, political commentary and musical inventiveness/ uncertainties.

Still acquiring the talents to channel his genius and the genius to an untidy outcome

The over-supply needs taming, rather than highlighting in the Turkish parts

His first new work in Vienna after his arrival in 1781, when he was saying ‘look at me!’. The score needed editing, as Mozart did himself in five places, four in Act II

Treat Mozart as a musical toy box from whom tunes flowed mindlessly.

The occasion of the Emperor’s criticism: ‘Too many notes’. To which Mozart replied: ‘As many as necessary’. It is too easy to dismiss the monarch’s remark as ignorance when it was an asute ear’s recognising that Mozart was showing off

When the Shah of Persia attended a symphony concert during his visit to London in the summer of 1873, the part he most enjoyed the tuning up. This anecdote captures, in reverse, the difficulties that Mozart faced in faking Turkish clatter within Classical elegance, barbaric passion versus cultivated reason.

Patrick Summers as conductor
Mozart’s phrasing has to glide forward, not be driven, yet can be savoured only occasionally if it is not to cloy.

Michael Gow’s direction        

Enslavement and ransom by Barbary pirates was as real for Mozart’s contemporaries sailing the Mediterranean as it is for today’s tourists in Mindano. The difference is that the West now imagines only terrorists and fundamentalism, Mozart’s circle construed an Islam as a eductable in natural law

Possible to embrace the clash of civilisations without setting the story in contemporary Lebanon.

Nick Schlieper’s lighting

Designed by Robert Kemp

Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail

Mozart’s enriching of the Singspiel interrupts Osmin

Story carried in speech and recitative and  

Kenneth Ransom as Pasha Selim is the ruler who is taught to overcome his desire for vengeance, Mozart’s bow to the Enlightened Despot, Emperor Josef II, for abolishing capital punishment.

The Pasha knows fury but remains above the fray by never singing. If music is passion and speech the voice of reason, why is the Turk the only one not to sing?

Truly in love?

Richard Alexander as the eunuch Osmin (bass) broods in his opening aria with an interior life and  who becomes a clown only when he imitates the Christian in drunkenness.

A eunuch with the deepest base in opera because the bass was the furtherest from the heavenly chorus. An earlier musical convention conflicts with our sense of dramatic naturalism.

By the beard of the prophet his rage crescendoes

Ends by breaking the bounds, and ‘must forget itself’

Violent passions must never disgust or offend and so keeps the key change within reason he

Joanna Cole as The Constanze  (soprano) far too much to do in the Second act, three big numbers, for nearly half the hour

‘What a change’ 7.30mts

sinfonia concertante followed by ‘Every kind of torture’ (Martern aller Arten) 9.33mts

Stage business in conflict with the vocal demands and the moral statements

This is opera seria at its most philosophical

Then a break for broad comedy before she resumes ‘Oh Belmonte, my Love’ for 10.40mts

Emma Matthews as her maid Blonde (soprano)

mid of Act II  ‘What Bliss, what pleasure’ [Welche Wonne ]  has ‘rapid fire phrases’

In the first aria, Belmonte (tenor) has to establish his credentials with a note that would test the breath of a flautist James Galway.

Rests until just after Vivat Bacchus, at end of Act II when ‘If tears of joy’ [Wenn der Freude Trauen] should be gorgeous but is often cut, or even have bits transferred to replace ‘I build on your strength’ [Ich baue ganz] at start of Act III which is too taxing.

Michael Raymond Martin as his servant Pedrillo (tenor) who is in love with Blonde

mid of Act II followed by high As in [Frisch zum Kampfe]

Despite the threatened violation of ethnic barriers no crossing of the class lines is contemplated. That comes later in Figaro and Magic Flute.


A survey of the musical, dramatic, theatrical and intellectual devices that

A stand against Italian influences to which he returned in The Magic Flute

And therefore should be in the language of the audience

Is the piccolo there?

Do we get a march as well as the chorus for the entry?