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Abduction from the Seraglio

The IU Opera Theatre opened its season with a production of Mozart’s comic rescue opera, “The Abduction from the Seraglio” that respects both the music and the comedy. Here’s the situation: The noble Spanish lady Constanza with her perky English maid Blonde and lowly, but clever servant Pedrillo have been captured by pirates and sold into slavery in a Turkish Harem. The harem is the possession of the Turkish Pasha Selim, and presided over by the brutal overseer Osmin. The young Spanish nobleman Belmonte arrives in search of his kidnapped heroine.

The production of “The Abduction from the Seraglio” features new sets by Robert O’Hearn. Deep stage right there is a dock and the incessantly turning rollers of white-capped waves. To the left a golden two story set of the seraglio’s balcony and apartments. It’s a classy sort of place. The area in front of the apartments can be concealed with curtains that depict gardens, decorative walls and even a symbolic bird cage.

Both the Spanish nobles, the kidnapped Constanza and the rescuer Belmonte have little to do dramatically, but much vocally. Belmonte has some lovely flowing pieces, all romance. Saturday night, Creighton James, if a little less honey flowing than some, did a commendable job as Belmonte. Constanza’s is the part that Mozart lavished his most particular attention upon. He’s set up a vocal mini-Olympics for the soprano. Carelle Flores had warmth, power and almost steely precision in the daunting coloratura passages.

Mozart’s English maid Blonde and the Spanish servant Pedrillo, have a chance to act a good bit more, but get a substantially smaller helping of music than the nobles. Here guest director Stefano Vizioli has exercised his skill, charm and wit. Blonde is by turns a teasing flirt and a fiercely independent young lady. She doesn’t hesitate to tell the Osmin, the wicked overseer that an English lady is not to be trifled with. Saturday night’s Blonde, Angela Mannino, was very funny and sang beautifully. In Vizioli’s staging, Pedrillo also gets to have a good many chance for foolery and John Sears made a well received and good account of the opportunities.

The villain of the piece is the brutal overseer Osmin. He’s supposed to be brutal and for the drama he has to be at least a bit threatening, but the opera doesn’t let him go too far. Mozart had at his disposal a popular bass who had simply cavernous low notes and a good deal of flexibility. It’s been a problem for opera companies every since. Saturday’s Osmin was sung by Jordan Bisch. Bisch has nice flexibility and a very impressive low voice that powered out all but the deepest pedal tones.

Belmonte, Constanza, Blonde and Pedrillo are all captured in their escape attempt. And they are brought before the Pasha. His is a nonsinging role with James Neff in both casts. Now, Pasha Selim has really been in love with and very forbearing of the noble Constanza. And he’s just discovered that Constanza’s love Belmonte is the son of his most hated enemy, a man who has done about every nasty thing imaginable to the Turk. The Pasha’s first response if a very understandable, “Oh happy day, the son of my worst enemy in my power.” But…Selim out nobles the nobles, he refuses to repay evil with evil and releases the prisoners. There’s nothing else anywhere in Mozart to equal it. Naturally, this being an opera the freed quartet sing a wonderful closing number and the curtain closes.

Imre Palló conducted with fine attention to balances and tempos. The lyrics flowed nicely, the comedy had both pace and space. The orchestra sounded wonderful and the way that Pallo brought out the individual parts from the tender to the raucous was a delight.

The IU Opera Theatre’s production of Mozart’s charming comedy, “The Abduction from the Seraglio” plays this Friday and Saturday at the Musical Arts Center.

You can see this and other WFIU opera, film and theatre reviews on our web site at WFIU dot Indiana dot edu.

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