Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail - Nézet-Séguin/Villazón CD review: disappointing

(Deutsche Grammophon, two CDs)

Deutsche Grammophon’s projected cycle of the mature Mozart operas, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, is central to Rolando Villazón’s efforts to reinvent himself as a Mozart tenor. Villazón and Nézet-Séguin are the two constant factors in the seven recordings, which are to be based on concert performances given each summer at Baden-Baden. The first set, of Così fan Tutte, appeared two years ago; a Don Giovanni followed last autumn, and the fourth instalment, Le Nozze di Figaro, will be recorded next week.

If the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden, the largest opera house in Germany, seems an odd place to choose for recording Mozart, then on the evidence of this Entführung neither Nézet-Séguin nor Villazón is an obvious point of reference for such a project, either.

The impression of the whole performance is of something old-fashioned which, the odd desultory vocal ornament apart, could have been recorded 40 or 50 years ago. There’s a bouncy enthusiasm to Nézet-Séguin’s approach, with its wide, dynamic contrasts, but not a great deal of subtlety, though the COE is its usual cultivated and alert self. The inclusion of a fortepiano continuo, which can only rarely be heard behind the weight of the modern strings and wind, seems tokenistic, especially with voices placed as far forward in the recording as they are, though the acoustic is consistent, and for once the spoken dialogue seems to belong in the same acoustic as the rest of the performance, with Thomas Quasthoff taking the purely speaking role of the Pasha Selim.

Villazón is Belmonte, but neither his sound nor his style is really plausible. It’s all very generalised, and often he could be singing Verdi rather than Mozart, with coloratura that is laboured, and tone that seems alternately nasal and curdled. The sense of style that’s missing in Villazón’s singing is emphasised by the other tenor, Paul Schweinester as Pedrillo, and especially by Diana Damrau as Konstanze, but Anna Prohaska is a disappointingly anonymous Blonde, and Franz-Josef Selig a surprisingly lightweight, rather unmenacing Osmin. Alongside the best performances already in the catalogue, whether traditional (conducted by Karl Böhm, say, or Colin Davis) or historically aware (William Christie or John Eliot Gardiner), this new version doesn’t begin to compete.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Classical album of the week: La Clemenza di Tito review – Nézet-Séguin and Villazón return
That latest live recording of the mature Mozart operas by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Rolando Villazón features extreme tempos and an idiosyncratic lead but impeccably cast smaller roles

Erica Jeal

19, Jul, 2018 @2:00 PM

Article image
Die Entführung aus dem Serail CD review – full of bounce and clatter
Le Cercle de l’Harmonie/Rhorer

Kate Molleson

28, Jul, 2016 @2:15 PM

LPO/Nézet-Séguin - review
this performance of the Fifth Symphony by the London Philharmonic seemed rather ordinary – though it had some extraordinary moments, writes George Hall

George Hall

21, Jan, 2011 @6:05 PM

LPO/Nézet-Séguin – review

Nézet-Séguin proved once more that he is an outstanding Bruckner conductor, even if 'completing' the composer's Ninth with the Te Deum did not convince, writes Martin Kettle

Martin Kettle

06, Feb, 2012 @12:37 PM

LPO/Nézet-Séguin – review
Yannick Nézet-Séguin's performance with the London Philharmonic reminded us of the pivotal, if unclassifiable, nature and striking originality of César Franck's remarkable Symphony in D Minor, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

25, Jan, 2011 @6:55 PM

Article image
LPO/Nézet-Séguin – review

Soloist James O'Donnell revealed the impressive tonal range of the Royal Festival Hall's refurbished organ in Poulenc's 1938 Concerto and Saint-Saëns's Organ Symphony, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

30, Mar, 2014 @3:27 PM

Classical review: LPO/Nézet-Séguin, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London
Though the performance was elegant, energetic and assured, the piece itself disappointed, says Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

08, Apr, 2009 @11:20 PM

Die Entführung aus dem Serail – review
Originally intended for the late Charles Mackerras, this performance stumbled on the awkward hurdles posed by Mozart's comedy, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

26, Nov, 2010 @10:00 PM

LPO/Yannick Nézet-Séguin – review

This concert was a startling affair, notable for the shamelessness and wildness Yannick Nézet-Séguin brought to Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique and La Mort de Cléopâtre, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

18, Feb, 2011 @7:14 PM

LPO/Nézet-Séguin | Classical review
Royal Festival Hall, London
The atmospheric languor of Debussy's Prélude l'Après-Midi d'un Faune was never forced by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, while La Mer was given a ­performance to remember, writes Martin Kettle

Martin Kettle

15, Feb, 2010 @11:05 PM