Die Entführung aus dem Serail
AS ITS 2016-17 SEASON OPENER, the Atlanta Opera dusted off and conservatively re-invented Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 1782 Singspiel, The Abduction from the Seraglio, at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre (seen Oct. 8). It’s a work that hasn’t been produced in Atlanta for at least a decade and was a perplexing—if undoubtedly elegant—choice, given the momentum that the company has gained in appealing to greater audiences during the last year. For all its virtues, Mozart’s Abduction is hardly a bring-down-the-house crowd pleaser; it does not boast the economy of means and dramatic poignancy of his trio of Da Ponte operas. Like a dinner party that lasts a bit too long, the conversation becomes dull after the big arias had come and gone.
The Atlanta Opera took great pains to engage its audience—even supplying the dialogue in English—but lagging tempos from conductor Arthur Fagen were an undeniable problem; with a single intermission in Act II, the evening lasted for three hours. Fagen got things moving after intermission with Blonde’s aria “Welche Wonne welche Lust,” sung by perky soubrette Katrina Galka, and tenor Matthew Grills’s ensuing “Vivat Bacchus,” in which Pedrillo succeeds in inebriating his rival Osmin (Kevin Burdette). Stage director Chris Alexander created a nice contrast between the silliness of these stock characters and their more distinguished counterparts, Konstanze and Belmonte.
Artistic director Tomer Tvulun has a knack for choosing proficient singers and his casting of Bliss –winner of the zarzuela prize at Operalia 2013– as Belmonte was spot on. Bliss’s initial aria, “Hier soll ich dich denn sehen” was steady and limpid and his characterization refined. The lovely soprano Sarah Coburn sang the role of Konstanze, and paced herself well vocally. Her back-to-back arias, the sustained and fragile-sounding “Traurigkeit” and the ensuing “Martern aller Arten,” were both impressively done.
Zvulun also brought back Burdette, last season’s popular Pirate King, to sing Osmin. Burdette is a fine singer and an ever better actor, who has the ability to ham up every scene with riveting choreography. However, the role of Osmin, first sung by Karl Ludwig Fisher, requires hefty low notes that Burdette lacks. Osmin’s comical duet with Blonde in Act II, “Ich gehe, doch rate ich dir,” wasn’t quite as funny without the A flat at the bottom as it’s a vocal line that Blonde later mocks with her own A flat. Yet despite that shortcoming, it was Burdette’s sense of comedy that carried the evening and enlivened what could have been a forgettable Abduction from the Seraglio.
Jacob Climer, scenic and costume designer, conceived the production’s visually stunning smorgasbord of costumes, which included a pink-tinged powdered wig and ruffled gown for Konstanze and an eye-popping purple eighteenth-century suit for Belmonte. Climer’s set then consisted of a massive 8 x 14-foot gilded frame suspended in the center of the Cobb Energy Performing Art Centre’s grand proscenium stage. It was used as a silent movie screen to tell the story of Konstanze’s kidnapping by pirates during the orchestral overture, as a multi-colored backdrop that transformed as needed, and as a miniature stage. The action that took place within this slighter space was most effective. It was as if the smaller scale was better-suited to the intimate quality of Mozart’s Singspiel. —Stephanie Adrian
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