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CD Review

Wolfgang Mozart

The Abduction from the Seraglio

  • Nicolai Gedda (Belmonte)
  • Mattiwilda Dobbs (Constanza)
  • Jenifer Eddy (Blonda)
  • John Fryatt (Pedrillo)
  • Noel Mangin (Osmin)
  • David Kelsey (Pasha Selim)
Ambrosian Singers
Bath Festival Orchestra/Yehudi Menuhin
Chandos CHAN3081(2) ADD 2CDs: 58:37, 74:47
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Many of the releases in Chandos' "Opera in English" series were recorded especially for this series. Here's an exception; it was recorded way back in 1967 for EMI, and Chandos has licensed it for reissue and seen to its painstaking digital remastering. Collectors who are not particularly interested in vernacular opera might want this set anyway for the contributions of Nicolai Gedda and Mattiwilda Dobbs. (Dobbs was an American soprano who had a short career, but she is still fondly remembered by record collectors of a certain age.) The translations of the sung material are by Joan Cross and Anne Wood. The dialogues were translated by Hugh Mills.

This Abduction will not replace any of the German-language recordings of this opera, but it's fun to have around. Gedda, always stylish and sensitive, is in pretty good voice, although some of his high notes are not as free as they were earlier in his career. Vocally, Dobbs and Eddy are not differentiated enough, and Eddy in no way plays second fiddle to Dobbs, who is tentative in "Martern aller Arten." Fryatt's Pedrillo is enjoyable, and so is Mangin's Osmin, despite the lack of a beefy bass sound in the manner of Gottlob Frick, for example. David Kelsey's dialogues breathe aristocracy. On the podium, Menuhin seems happy to treat the score like an anticipation of Gilbert and Sullivan. (In fact, Fryatt was a member of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in the 1950s.) It is surprising that he is not more stylish, given his excellent recordings of the Mozart Violin Concertos. It's not bad conducting, but it is a little rough and tumble.

The sung English can be clumsy. ("Martern aller Arten" is translated as "Tortures unrelenting may for me be waiting.") Diction varies from excellent (Pryatt) to awful (Mangin) – what's the point of opera in English if you still can't understand the words? Also, the use of the vernacular intensifies the contextual oddness of Gedda's Swedish accent and Dobbs's studied English (she is trying not to sound like an American); remember, these are Spaniards in Turkey.

This Abduction is a mixed bag, but I won't say I didn't enjoy the trip down Memory Lane.

Copyright © 2002, Raymond Tuttle