Opéra Royal de Versailles stages Mozart’s ‘l’Enlèvement au Sérail’

Scene from the Opéra Royal de Versailles’ production of l’Enlèvement au Sérail
© Pascal Le Mée

The Opéra Royal de Versailles stages a new production of Mozart’s l’Enlèvement au Sérail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) this month. Directed by Michel Fau and led by conductor Gaétan Jarry, the production stars Mathias Vidal as the hero Belmonte, Florie Valiquette as his lover Constance, Gwendoline Blondeel as Constance’s servant Blonde, and Enguerrand de Hys as Pedrillo, valet to Belmonte.

The magnificent interior of the Opéra Royal de Versailles © Thomas Garnier

There can be few opera houses as magnificent as the Opéra Royal at the Chateau de Versailles. One of the greatest works by architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, the concert hall was conceived during the reign of Louis XIV, and built during the reign of Louis XV. The largest concert hall in Europe at the time, a great technical achievement and impressive feat of decorative refinement, it was inaugurated in 1770.

Mozart composed l’Enlèvement au Sérail in 1782, on commission from the Austrian Emperor Joseph II. Written in German as Die Entführung aus dem Serail, the original libretto was by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner, reworked by Johann Gottlieb Stephanie the Younger. This production however is sung in French, using a translated version of the libretto by Pierre-Louis Moline, a French playwright, librettist and a contemporary of Mozart.

This comical romance was written as a singspiel – featuring dialogue that is not sung but spoken. Set in a Turkish harem, the plot surrounds the attempt by Belmonte to rescue his beloved Constance from the clutches of Pasha Selim. The opera premiered at the Vienna Burgtheater on 16th July, 1782, with the composer conducting. The premiere was a great success and launched Mozart’s Viennese career.

Mathias Vidal as Belmonte and Enguerrand de Hys as Pedrillo © Pascal Le Mée

Tenor Mathias Vidal – who takes the role of Belmonte – is best known for his French romantic repertoire, and has also sung roles including those of Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore and Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Almaviva in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Ramiro in La Cenerentola. In this current season, he has appeared as Nadir in Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, the title roles in of Rameau’s Platée at Zurich Opéra and in Massenet’s Don Quixote as well as in numerous concerts.

The up and coming young Canadian soprano Florie Valiquette opened this season in two new productions at the Opéra Royal de Versailles, taking the roles of Matilde in Vaccai’s Giulietta & Romeo and Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, as well as Gabrielle in Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne at the Opéra de Montpellier. Having also undertaken various concert appearances, she was described by La Libre Belgique as “… imaginative and committed with a ravishing treble”.

Florie Valiquette as Constance and Michel Fau as Selim Bassa © Pascal Le Mée

Highlights of this season for soprano Gwendoline Blondeel, known for her “pure emission and her musical intelligence” says Forum Opera, include appearances of the roles of Poesia/Fiordiligi in Luigi Rossi’s Il Palazzo Incantato at Opéra National de Loraine, Sangaride in Lully’s Athys at the Théâtre des Champs Elyseés and several concert performances of Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine with Cappella Mediterranea.

Among the recent engagements of tenor Enguerrand de Hys are the roles of Bobinet in Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne at Opéra de Bordeaux, Tybalt in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Opéra de Nice, Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Opéra Royal de Versailles, as well as the tenor solo in Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor at Opéra de Limoges.

Mathias Vidal as Belmonte © Pascal Le Mée

Also in the cast are Nicolas Brooymans as Osmin and Michel Fau in the spoken role of Selim Bassa. Fau is a French actor and writer, known for his roles in the films Cyrano de Bergerac, Swimming Pool and Marguerite.

Gaétan Jarry leads the Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra Royal de Versailles in performances of Mozart’s l’Enlèvement au Sérail between 22nd and 26th May at the Opéra royal de Versailles. This production will be recorded for release on the Château de Versailles Spectacles label.

Information sourced from:

Opéra Royal de Versailles programme notes

Chateau de Versailles

Chateau de Versailles Spectacles

Artists’ websites

ArtsPreview home page

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