With The Seraglio, Mozart was conscious of his Viennese audience’s fascination with all things eastern and he up-ends all possible stereotyping in his singspiel. If you expect tyranny from everyone who frightens you, look closer at the Pasha.
ETO’s period production of The Seraglio is a charming confection with a beating heart.
It’s a treat from start to finish
John Andrews’s supple conducting and ideal tempi gave consistent pleasure
The Sunday Times
humour and tenderness
perfectly rendered by director Stephen Medcalf
The Arts Desk
5 More Reviews
a really sophisticated show
charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant
effervescent and visually rewarding
the sort of imaginatively engaging performance which drew you in
startles with its brave humanity
Plays To See
Belmonte, a Spanish nobleman, is searching for his long-lost lover Konstanze, who has been abducted by pirates along with his servant Pedrillo and Konstanze’s English maid, Blonde. Finding himself outside the Pasha Selim’s palace, Belmonte meets Osmin, the Pasha’s steward. Osmin flies into a rage when he is questioned about Pedrillo, who has ingratiated himself with the Pasha and become the keeper of the palace gardens. The two have become inveterate enemies.
Belmonte and Pedrillo meet. Pedrillo tells Belmonte that the Pasha bought him from the pirates along with Konstanze and Blonde (whom Pedrillo loves). Konstanze has become the favourite of the Pasha’s harem, while Blonde has been given to Osmin. Pedrillo warns that it will be difficult to outwit the cunning Osmin. They plot to introduce Belmonte to the Pasha as a brilliant young architect in order to engineer an escape from the palace.
The Pasha arrives and seeks out Konstanze. He begs her once again to give him her love but she refuses, saying she would rather die than break her vow to her beloved. She returns to her captivity. Pedrillo introduces Belmonte to the Pasha, who agrees to give him an audience. They follow him into the palace, having successfully evaded the furious Osmin.
Osmin tries to woo Blonde, but she is outraged at his crude advances and tells him it is tenderness, not force, that will win her love. She threatens to exploit Konstanze’s influence over the Pasha to have Osmin punished.
Meanwhile, Konstanze defiantly resists the Pasha’s threats of torture, resigning herself to death rather than betray her love for Belmonte.
Pedrillo tells Blonde of Belmonte’s arrival and of their escape plan. Overjoyed, Blonde goes to tell Konstanze the good news.
Belmonte, waiting to put the escape plan into action, reflects on the power of love. As a signal to the women, Pedrillo sings a serenade about a young knight rescuing a maiden held prisoner. Pedrillo and Blonde are caught by Osmin, whose guards also catch Belmonte and Konstanze. Osmin exults in the prospect of their torture and execution.
The Pasha confronts the lovers and Belmonte pleads for compassion, explaining that he is from a noble Spanish family who will pay a large ransom. The Pasha realises that Belmonte is the son of his greatest enemy, who cruelly forced him into exile. He leaves them alone to consider his judgement. Belmonte and Konstanze welcome death as the only way they can remain together.
The Pasha returns to deliver his verdict. He tells Belmonte that he will repay injustice with mercy, and allows all four their freedom. Osmin’s heartbreak at losing Blonde turns to desperate rage but everyone else agrees that vengeance is despicable and that forgiveness is the sign of true humanity.
David W KiddLighting Designer