Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Review - The Abduction from the Seraglio, Edmonton Opera

Edmonton Opera's The Abduction from the Seraglio was "shaken, not stirred" tonight at the Jubilee Auditorium with an updated production of this classic Mozart opera.  The James Bond genre was in full swing with "Mad Men" type costumes complete with martini set for after those taking-out-the-bad-guy-with-piano-wire moments.

Our hero Belmonte, complete with his other "agents" Pedrillo, Blonde and Konstanze are on a mission to thwart the evil Pasha Selim and Osmin in their plans to take over the world when Blonde and Konstanze are captured for the powerful Pasha's seraglio.

Edmonton favourite Colin Ainsworth is a lyrical and heartfelt Belmonte who is equally comfortable in his portayal of silliness and passion for his love Konstanze.  Mr. Ainsworth always makes singing opera look and sound easy and we always look forward to his return to Edmonton.  Carla Huhtanen makes her first appearance with Edmonton Opera as the feisty Blonde in "The Abduction ..." and commands the stage with her bright and vivacious voice.  In particular, Ms. Huhtanen's duet with Dean Elzinga's Osmin in the first act was great fun and their characters' chemistry was obvious.  Charlotte Corwin's Konstanze was beautiful and rich with lovely colours in her medium and lower ranges.

The Director Michael Cavanagh created the 1960's Bond feel to the production however the dialogue channeled an inner juvenile 80's movie with references to music and movies that didn't match the intended class of the rest of the visuals.  Pasha sounded like either "Bill" or "Ted" (not sure which) from what I'm sure is Keanu Reeves' favourite "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure".  I get it - bring the silly and take it all the way in true comic opera tradition.  However, this went too far with the use of Arab and especially offensive Mexican stereotypes including mocking accents and lines like "... you come here and take our jobs".

Even though these characterizations went a bit too far in my view, Edmontonians were in typical comic form who laugh outwardly more than any opera audience I have seen.  They equally enjoy the slapstick and the more poignant moments and appreciated all that Edmonton Opera has to offer.  Mozart himself is either rolling over in his unmarked grave or he's laughing harder than anyone else.

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