Pacific Opera Project's Abduction From The Seraglio Review - Mozart for Trekkies

Pacific Opera Project’s (POP) latest offering, Abduction From The Seraglio, with music by Woflgang Amadeus Mozart and English lyrics by Josh Shaw, is yet another highly innovative and fun production from the little opera company that could.

 

Slave girls

Presented for only three nights at the lovely El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, this is possibly their biggest venue to date, and the shows were sold out for every performance. 

 

Stephen Karr conducts 27 piece orchestra

Josh Shaw, director and stage designer, and his partner Stephen Karr, musical director, boldly push the opera art form into contemporary lingo, and make it financially accessible to ordinary folks (not just opera buffs).  In so doing they are achieving what many big opera companies are attempting to do — introduce opera to a wider audience.  This is a worthy goal to preserve the art form itself. Still today, many people (sadly) who have not been introduced to opera have an overall feeling that it stuffy and boring - and are rarely tempted to lay out the big bucks at large opera houses to find out.

 

dance of the Klingons

Abduction from The Seraglio is translated from the German into English, and the character names remain the same.  The plot seems to be point-by-point true to the original story (librettist Gottlieb Stephanie). And yet director Shaw has skillfully changed the location from 18th century Turkey in the Ottoman Empire to a planet far, far away - inhabited by Klingons.  The heroes who are trapped there are character-for-character right out of Star Trek, as are the costumes (designed by Maggie Green) and sets.

And it is wonderful to see accomplished opera singers who can also parody these Starship Enterprise and Klingon characters and make them such fun, while delivering the intended musical beauty and congruency. Mozart would be proud.

Capt. Belmonte

 

Tenor Brian Cheney as Captain Belmonte has a beautiful voice, which he melds happily with his campy and funny portrayal of Captain Kirk.  Every move is slightly overdone as a cartoon character with comic effect.  He is consistent throughout, and only a couple of times did it become a bit tiresome - because his style was not supported and enhanced by the styles of the others onstage. His character is the only one who speaks directly to the audience.

Osmin

 

Phil Meyers, as his nemesis Osmin, is also comically over the top.  His fabulous bass voice goes down to the depths as he portrays his villainy. He is a real star, always entertaining to watch, and thrilling to hear.  When he and Cheney sing a duet, it is a wonderful duel.

Tenor Robert Norman as Pedrillo gets to wear the Dr. Spock ears.  His voice is sublime, and he delivers perhaps the best aria in the show, with great sentiment, when he questions whether he is Vulcan or human.  It’s pure genius on the part of Josh Shaw. In the first act, Norman has little to do. His presence is underplayed, and it doesn't go very far in showing much about his character. But in Act II, he comes alive and delivers on the comedy as well as the music.

double duets

 

Claire Averill as Blondie is hilarious.  When she talks, she sounds just like Lois in Family Guy.  But when she sings, she is a lovely, lilting soprano.   She prances and dances around as a green broad in a bikini as she flirts and fights with Osmin and teases Pedrillo.

 

Blondie and Osmin

As the besieged lover of Belmonte, Constanza, Shawnette Sulker also has a lovely soprano voice, although there was little evidence of a comedy bone until the end when she engages in some cute dancing with the other leads.

 

Selin and Costanza

Both sopranos were perfect in delivering their arias, but Mozart did give them a plethora of very high notes.  Although they were able to reach the those notes, at times one could wish for a bit more vocal fullness.

Gregg Lawrence plays Chancellor Selim, who is stately but also seriously serious.

Although Josh Shaw did a fantastic job with the lyrics and story, making them so poetically fit with the Mozart tunes, he could have perhaps orchestrated the acting onstage by giving it more of an ensemble feel and blending the styles of comedy portrayed.

 

Belmonte vs a space creature

There is much to appreciate, and the audience had lots of fun. There were probably many Trekkie jokes that I, as a casual Trekkie fan, did not pick up on, which made the show all that much more of a hoot. There is even a wonderful tribute to Leonard Nimoy at the end.

 

A tribute to Leonard Nimoy

I hope that POP will be able to extend their performances in the near future so that more people can have the opportunity to discover this great company and learn what a luscious art form is opera.

 

Photos courtesy of Martha Benedict.

 

 

Georja Umano is an actor and animal advocate.

 

Pacific Opera Project

next production: Ariadne Auf Naxos :

May 14-23 at Ebell Club of Highland Park

323-739-6122

 

 

 

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