June 2001

Mozart - The Abduction From The Seraglio
Telarc CD-80544 (two CDs)
Released: 2000

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***

[Reviewed on CD]Here we have yet another recording of Mozart’s The Abduction From The Seraglio -- this time by Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Chorus on Telarc. Mackerras seems to be making it his life’s work to record just about everything Mozart ever penned. And while his interpretations have not always been successful, Telarc has always given him excellent sound. On this outing, Mackerras gets both, and perhaps that’s reason enough for its existence. (An additional reason may be that this is also a soundtrack to the movie, Mozart In Turkey.)

I’ve never been a huge fan of opera on CD (or on LP), since I feel that opera is visual as well as aural entertainment. (For the same reason, I’m no great fan of movie soundtracks, either.) I find it hard to follow the songs/music when I know that there should be visual cues to aid in understanding the story. However, it’s the music that matters most (right?), and here the music carries the day.

Most readers will already be familiar with Abduction's plot: Belmonte has traveled to Turkey to rescue his fiancÚ Constanza, her maid Blonda, and his servant Pedrillo who were captured by pirates and sold into slavery. His attempts to free them from the Pasha Selim and his overseer Osmin make up the bulk of the opera, and I’ll not spoil the ending by telling it here.

The Abduction From The Seraglio was Mozart’s second opera (his first being Idomeneo in 1780) and one of the first things he wrote on moving to Vienna in 1781 at the age of 25. Finally free of all constraints (both parental and otherwise) Mozart launched into life with a zest hitherto unknown. He had, at that time, fallen in love with his landlady's daughter, Constanza Weber (note the name of the heroine in the opera) and hoped that The Abduction… would help cement his position in Vienna and allow him to marry. As we know, most of his dreams never came to fruition, and Mozart’s life ended early at age of 35 (though he and Constanza did, in fact, get married).

But enough of the history lesson. How does Telarc’s Abduction stack up? Has Telarc hit the bull's-eye sonically with this DSD recording? Telarc has been using Sony’s DSD recording process for a while now, and I’ve heard many of those recordings. I’ve never been disappointed with the sound Telarc has gotten using DSD, and this double CD has not changed that opinion.

Listen to the air that surrounds the voices in the opening dialogue on disc two: the feeling of real space is inescapable. Also, listen to the way the orchestra is portrayed: you can really hear the distinction between the plane the musicians are on and the one on which the singers reside. (I’ve heard recordings that couldn’t make that differentiation, and it makes for hard sledding.) The bass is deep and lays a solid foundation for the orchestra. The strings sing sweetly, and the voices are easy to follow, allowing each singer’s style to shine through. In all, an impressive recording.

I’ve not heard of most of the cast, and that may be because this is a film soundtrack (as well as an opera score), and the singers were not chosen for their singing talents alone. No matter, this crew does justice to the music -- which goes a long way toward making for an enjoyable listening session. There is passion, comedy and intrigue within the score, and those qualities are all present here. The singers are not showing off; they just sing the libretto with an understanding of the story and the characters. Bravo.

While this recording may not have a big-name cast, it does have a sterling group of performers who make Mozart’s musical score come alive. Is it a worthy addition to your collection? I’d say yes. A fine performance combined with superb sonics make this set a definite keeper.