Semi-staged opera often has a whiff of apology – sorry, we didn't have the time, funds or resources to do "the real thing". But not tonight, where the Proms have brought Glyndebourne's production of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail to central London. In full costume and with an armoury of props, this was as much of the "real" thing as you'll ever get against the backdrop of an orchestra.

Franck Saurel (Pasha Selim) © BBC | Chris Christodoulou
Franck Saurel (Pasha Selim)
© BBC | Chris Christodoulou

If I were to find any niggles, there was the notorious acoustic of the Royal Albert Hall (which seemed to pose increasingly fewer problems as the evening progressed) and a generally very high level of shouting and slamming that I could have done without. Brenden Patrick Gunnell's Pedrillo, for example, appeared particularly affected by the strange phenomenon as his character seemed entirely overdrawn and exaggerated, often shouting and slamming various props down without apparent cause. In Belmonte's case, as Spanish lover first anxious, then strong and self-assured (Edgaras Montvidas), on the other hand, once could understand a certain degree of nervous excitement on the prospect of seeing Konstanze, and in Blonde's and Osmin's conversation and duet (Mari Eriksmoen and Tobias Kehrer) shouting was indispensable. They gave the impression of an old couple that has been married for an age and a half, and who have grown to dislike the other's annoying habits over the many years, but somewhere still feels a certain affection. Their singing was appealing, lively and fresh, their acting spot on as their squabble turned into a full blown, absolutely hilarious food fight, which in turn elicited applause for the stage hands cleaning up after them (and boy was it necessary).

B. Gunnell (Pedrillo), M. Eriksmoen (Blonde), S. Matthews (Konstanze) and E. Montvidas (Belmonte) © BBC | Chris Christodoulou
B. Gunnell (Pedrillo), M. Eriksmoen (Blonde), S. Matthews (Konstanze) and E. Montvidas (Belmonte)
© BBC | Chris Christodoulou
The first couple initially seemed less appealing, Sally Matthews' Konstanze too mature, yet her initially alienating, strong dramatic vibrato that blurred her exciting coloratura carried in "Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose" and worked particularly well in "Martern aller Arten", highlighting the fact that this production extensively explores the potential attraction between both women and their capturers: Osmin was shown as the typical barbarian trying to force his affections on Blonde; Franck Saurel's Pasha Selim, however, wooed Konstanze ardently with such an adorable French accent that made me wonder why she hadn't fallen for him long ago. Shown in their bed chamber before the abduction, Konstanze's steadfastness wavered (perhaps at the sight of Saurel's athletic bare upper body?), and the ever more obvious physical depiction of their relationship as Selim buried his face in her lap made the double-sided nature of her "Martern" aria particularly eminent.

While all three gave impeccable performances, for me the vocal highlight of the evening was the quirky non-couple of Blonde and Osmin. Mari Eriksmoen has a clear, agile soprano and light vibrato with which she spun fine pianos and gave a credible depiction of the caring, boisterous and a little naive girl – a girl in whom Osmin finds his mistress, much to his vexation. Tobias Kehrer mimed the lecherous brute with appropriate malice despite his youthful voice, mastering the abysmal depth of his part with ease, never forced, with beautifully sonorous tone. It was a delight, and one always carried by the fabulous Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in the hands (no baton) of Robin Ticciati.

Mari Eriksmoen (Blonde) and Tobias Kehrer (Osmin) © BBC | Chris Christodoulou
Mari Eriksmoen (Blonde) and Tobias Kehrer (Osmin)
© BBC | Chris Christodoulou

The orchestra's transparent, colourful sound travelled well even in the must hushed pianissimos, in forte passages the percussion instruments combined with the others splendidly, and once could easily imagine why Mozart chose this set of instruments to give his opera an exotic flavour. In addition, the OAE and Ticciati seemed a perfect match. His conducting was soft and gentle in the quieter moments where he suggested, moulded and stroked the music into shape, bubbly and exuberant elsewhere. Like a delicate, taut spring, he bounced up and down on the podium, yet never lapsed into extravagant gestures. He took the Overture and choruses at a brisk pace that made for added excitement; he pointed the way, the orchestra followed eagerly. In unexpected breaks, he merely gathered the music in one hand for excited expectation; then, merely opening his hand, like a piece of silk cloth wafting to the ground, the music streamed on. It was a revelation, and one felt ashamed at the fact that the stage action in front of the orchestra was often so captivating that it made the listener almost forget about this superb orchestra altogether.