Art, one could say, is successful when it becomes the starting point for a basically endless spinning of thoughts and associations, a mine-like digging for ever more knowledge. So there you are, sitting in the courtyard of the Rheinsberg Palace, at the first premiere of this year’s chamber opera season, firmly believing that you know Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio” by and large.
And then actor Christian Dieterle appears and first demonstrates what you actually don’t know. Dieterle gives a lecture about the possible location of the event – probably in Algeria – about the history of slavery and the hypocrisy of Christians, about the architecture of Ottoman palaces and the complex relationship between Islam and alcohol.
He quotes Casanova, who visits a pasha and discovers a wine store behind the bookcase, or Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who reports in 1717: “A Turkish palace is harder to describe than any other because it is irregularly built. There is nothing that looks like a front or wings.”
Lots of chunks of knowledge that lead their own lives in the head. At this point in time, there was still little music, and yet you put up with the whole thing, because of Dieterle’s dark, sonorous voice and because it’s just incredibly interesting. And because whenever the speech threatens to become too much, the opera comes into its own.
Brad Cooper as Belmonte has been flitting back and forth in the background between the sculptures and the glittering lake the whole time, looking for his consistency. The Kammerakademie Potsdam sits in the corner, so it doesn’t block the view of the lake, so large parts of the courtyard can be used as a play area.
And the audience sits right in the middle, getting up close and personal with what is happening, the voices pass so close to the ear that it would never be possible in a conventional opera house – and suddenly something new appears, for example the great quartet (“Ach Belmonte! Ach, mein Leben”), which Mozart wrote for the finale of the second act, really appreciated for the first time.
In addition: Watching Werner Ehrhardt is a pleasure. The early music specialist and founder of the Chamber Orchestra Concerto Köln is one of those conductors who let the music flow through their bodies, who make their joy and fun in it visible to everyone: he laughs, grins, sings along without it would tip into the embarrassing or the ridiculous. The acoustics in the castle courtyard are excellent despite the open flank towards the lake.
The pleasantly sober Prussian architecture of the palace, the drama of nature unfolding on the horizon, the clusters of clouds, the glaring, slowly sinking sun, the calls of the muscovy ducks over the water, plus Mozart’s wonderful music and the accents that a few aufs Creating minimally reduced backdrops and historicizing costumes (Barbara Krott) – all this blends into a fine, even magical evening. The highlight of director and chamber opera director Georg Quander: commentator Christian Dieterle soon turns out to be Bassa Selim himself.
There are two equal casts of chamber opera prizewinners, on Saturday Changjun Lee stands out, singing an Osmin that is as frightening as it is pathetic, whose robust bass echoes off the walls of the castle courtyard, who fearlessly lets himself fall into a fountain and then, when the temperature drops, he continues to sing in a wet costume for another quarter of an hour before he is finally allowed to change.
The character of Belmonte can confidently accept the Don Ottavio award for the most boring Mozart role, so Brad Cooper has a thankless job. He slurps at about the beginning before his voice evens out. Gregor Drake plays an attractive, cunning Pedrillo with blue eyes, but finds himself faced with challenges in the heights.
The ladies are brilliant: Sophie Bareis as well as the composed, even majestic Konstanze in the “Marter aller Arten” aria, Jihyun Kang as the bustling black-haired blonde who, however, has to work on the comprehensibility of her German language, especially in the speech passages.
Happiness and sorrow of open airs: The quartet closes the second act, but becomes the finale of the piece. No rain, but the temperatures put an end to the performance, the orchestra worries about its instruments, the third act is cancelled. A painful, cold turkey. It would have been nice to have seen and heard the evening, which had been extremely successful up to that point. All the more reason to visit one of the remaining performances.