LA Opera’s The Abduction from the Seraglio – A Perfect Turkish Delight

Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio onstage now at Dorothy Chandler Pavillion is one of opera’s most popular comedies. It was the biggest stage success Mozart enjoyed in his lifetime. It is a long opera with two intermissions.  But the action and music fly by like a Tom and Jerry cartoon. I could hardly wait to get back to the fun after each intermission.

 

Osmin (Morris Robinson) tussles with Blonde (So Young Park)

First of al, it’s Mozart played perfectly.  Secondly, it is comedy done to a tee. Thirdly, it takes place on the Orient Express, and the 1920s sets by Allen Moyer are to die for. And did I mention the performers are all wonderful? Their voices, the characters they create, and the working of the ensemble as a whole are not to be missed. James Conlon and the orchestra are in tune and all keep up the pace with the action on every single note.

 

Konstanze and her lover Belmonte (Joel Prieto) on the Orient Express

 

Kudos to director James Robinson, who has brought together such a complete production. Robinson remarks in the program notes, “The naïve quality of the story reminded me of comedies like Bringing Up Baby and Busby Berkeley movies from the 1930s.  We wanted it to feel like everyone is thrown together in a way that forces them to deal with each other.”  The metaphor of the train in motion, journeying between two worlds, is very creative.

There are many repetitions of musical phrases. This is true in many operas, and one can appreciate the artistry of the voices. But in this LA Opera production, the repetitions become so much more. The comic scenes are played to the hilt, with each round raising the notch of physical comedy. Physical comedy, done right, is universally appealing. The Commedia del’ Arte, where it all started, spread quickly around Italy. and became the model for comedies worldwide, including this one.

 

Osmin gets the better of Pedrillo (Brenton Ryan)

As James Conlon points out in his notes, “In the 18th Century, Italian opera was compartmentalized: opera buffa made us laugh, opera seria made us think…Mozart clouded this distinction by elevating the level of comic opera to deal with more serious subjects…. He introduced psychological gravity and emotional depth into stock characters and situations through the power of his music.”

 

Konstanze is reunited with Belmonte

Sally Matthews as heroine Konstanze (named after Mozart’s wife), a true and loyal fiance’, has the difficult position of holding down the serious tones of the story.  She is forlorn and in much pain, having been stolen from her lover and forced to attend to a polygamist pasha.  She has many emotion-filled arias, and she heightens the emotion with each round. At times, this leads to a suggestion of utter hysteria and melodrama in her voice and can be seen in her body, which occasionally verges on the edges of humor.  And yet she is deadly serious, even as the commedia takes place all around her. Masterfully done. A real stand-out performance.

Soprano Sally Matthews is the serious lead as Konstanze

Konstanze’s costumes are gorgeous 1920s, and her evening dress, a simple black velvet, is very classy. Great work by designer Anna R. Oliver. While she is dressed to the nines, the Pasha's other wives appear in burkas, which only heightens the humor. The men are in stunning suits of the period, with the servants and guards colorful in authentic-looking garb.

 

L to R: Blonde, Konstanze, Osmin, Belmonte, and Pedrillo - escape plans foiled!

But the scene stealer of them all is hilarious, laugh-out-loud bass Osmin played by the much-in-demand Morris Robinson with his unbelievably deep voice and blustering but loveable humor. He prances around the stage in voluminous attire, fitting his position as servant of the Pasha and yet clownish and over-the-top.  He is outraged, incensed most of the time, and loves to describe all the tortures he would like to inflict on his fellow players, especially Pedrillo (Brenton Ryan), the kidnapped butler of Konstanze's lover Belmonte (Joel Prieto).

Osmin and Pedrillo indeed play off each other with such animation and joy, their fracas is itself worth the price of admission. Ryan is nimble and clever to Morris’s joyful predator. Ryan is also a charming sidekick to his girlfriend Blonde, Konstanze's maid.  Prieto is a dashing and sincere tenor who fulfills his part well.

 

Osmin and the would-be abductors choose their weapons - pillows!

So Young Park is Blonde.  She is so dainty and yet demands respect as she slings the hurls and insults back at Osmin and puts him in his place.  She is romantic and light with her Pedrillo. Her mezzo is sweet, and she is a joy in every scene she is in.  Hope to see a lot more of her as well as at LAOpera.

 

Showdown with Pasha Selim (actor Hamish Linklater in a nonsinging role)

 

The singing is in German, and there is much spoken dialogue in English, which is modern and relatable.  At the center of the story is the Pasha Selim, a great nonsinging character who at first seems evil, but later becomes a moral compass. Here he is played by Hamish Linklater. You may have seen him as Julia Louis Dreyfus’s slacker brother in The New Adventures of Old Christine.  But here he is a wry, subtle, powerful person who is smitten, outraged, and yet manages to find the high ground. He becomes and inspiration and savior to all.

This story is easily accessible and the music is easily loveable.  A recommendation to all potential opera goers, both seasoned and new.

 

Photos by Craig T. Mathew / LA Opera

Georja Umano is and actor and animal advocate.

 

SCHEDULE

 

 

           Saturday Feb. 04, 2017 07:30 

  • Wednesday February 08, 2017 07:30 PM 
    Lowest Price and Newcomer Night!
     Sunday February 12, 2017 02:00 PM 
  • Thursday February 16, 2017 07:30 PM 
  • Sunday February 19, 2017 02:00 PM 
 

For tickets and more information www.laopera.org :

Box Office phone hours are Monday-Saturday from 10:00am-6:00pm; the Box Office Window is closed on Mondays.  On performance days, we open 2 hours prior to curtain: typically 5:30pm for evening performances and noon for matinees.

Phone: 213.972.8001 
Fax: 213.972.3008  

Address: 135 North Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90012

 

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