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Turning a noble Turk into a dodgy Russian: issues in updating Mozart's Die Entfuhrung as they've done at Garsington
by Michael White
In days gone by it was the dog (or donkey or some other animal) that stole the show in opera. These days it's the car. And there's a notable example, sleek, black and expensive, that makes everybody's evening in the new Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail at Garsington. It drives on not once but twice, presumably by popular demand. And should you wonder what a car is doing in a Mozart opera about 16th Century Turkish harems, it's because Daniel Slater's production has nothing to do with the 16th century or Turks or harems – and I'd be tempted to say, not much to do with Mozart either except that the music's the music and all there (although not always in the expected order).
Instead, we're in modern times with the Pasha Selim transformed into a dodgy Russian oligarch, surrounded by bodyguards in dark glasses, one of them Osmin. Needless to say, he owns a football team (which is critical to the denouement). Belmonte suffers social relegation from a Spanish nobleman to an American in a baseball cap. Blonde for some reason becomes Swedish, as opposed to English. And the dialogue is largely rewritten to accommodate the changes.
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