Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Stage

'Abduction from the Seraglio' by St. Petersburg Opera shows off Mozart's genius

ST. PETERSBURG — A nearly full house turned out on Friday for the St. Petersburg Opera's first production of 2016, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio.

As with all things Palladium, the former church with excellent acoustics had to find a way to use its orchestra without a pit. Maestro Mark Sforzini has always managed to do so in the past, with fewer musicians than he might ordinarily use, somehow making more with less.

Sforzini and the orchestra pulled that off again on opening night, albeit this time muted a tad behind the set, which is supposed to represent a pasha's palace.

RELATED: The maestro, the money, and the unfinished 'Great Gatsby' opera

As with all things Mozart, you get a fount of incomparable music — unpredictable, irreverent and playful, including a couple of quartets by the romantic leads that balance like opposite sides of an algebraic equation. This story, with a libretto by Christoph Freidrich Bretzner and Gottlieb Stephanie, also illustrates the composer's saucy sense of humor, as does the music itself throughout the three acts.

This production stars some fine singers who more than anyone make the whole thing work. Alexandra Batsios, as Konstanze, one of three Europeans captured by pirates and sold to a Turkish pasha, has a clear and sweet open air at the top of her range. Not a cloud in the sky. Bit by bit, she earns her money as the opera wends it deliberate way through, clowning a bit here and pouting there in an industrious performance.

Coming to her rescue is Wesley Morgan as her fiance Belmonte, a tenor whose duties include holding notes and going on runs for an absurdly long time, drawing appreciative laughter. The pasha (Cornelio Aguilera) is smitten by his slave, and gives Konstanze an ultimatum: "I command you immediately to love me."

Complementing these two are Pedrillo, who had been Belmonte's servant before he was captured at sea, and the feisty Blonde, who was captured along with him. Scott Joiner as Pedrillo is a talented physical comic whose antics help keep the slower parts of the opera entertaining. As Blonde, Marielle Murphy turns in an able performance, delivering the music like a pro and going along with the silliness embedded in the opera by Mozart and the librettists.

Suffice it to say there are some of twists and turns, but resolution comes in a markedly different way than in tragic operas. This is a farce and a marvel, dashed off in 1782 by a 26-year-old kid in Vienna with a ribald sense of humor. (In the movie Amadeus, the opera is the backdrop for the emperor's comment to Mozart, "There are simply too many notes... Cut a few and it will be perfect.")

One of those notes made opera history. As Osmin, the pasha's enforcer and lovable thug, David Salsbery Fry hits a low D, the lowest note in the bass repertoire. Just for fun, try searching "Bass Cage Match: Osmin's Low D!" on YouTube.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail, the opera's original title, is sung in German with English supertitles. Spoken passages are in English.

The musicians deliver the goods in the playful spirit intended by a genius whose works never gets old.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
What it was like in the audience at Aziz Ansari’s St. Petersburg show

What it was like in the audience at Aziz Ansari’s St. Petersburg show

ST. PETERSBURG — Aziz Ansari might not like that I’m writing this."Another piece of Internet content written to generate clicks and speculation!" he might say in his signature high-pitched yell. "Another hot take for the woke masses!"At least, that’s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A committed villain and a sterling ensemble lift St. Petersburg Opera in ‘Don Giovanni’

A committed villain and a sterling ensemble lift St. Petersburg Opera in ‘Don Giovanni’

ST. PETERSBURG — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart broke barriers in opera, and not just by weaving those impossible harmonies with seemingly little effort. Together with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, he also relished any chance to tweak the upper class,...
Published: 10/18/18
Updated: 10/20/18
Singer Seal to headline February’s Florida Orchestra gala

Singer Seal to headline February’s Florida Orchestra gala

ST. PETERSBURG — The Florida Orchestra has landed Seal, a four-time Grammy winner, to headline its fundraising gala at the Mahaffey Theater Feb. 9.The London-born star, who has sold more than 30 million albums on the strength of his versatile, smooth...
Published: 10/18/18
So much to like about ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

So much to like about ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

TAMPA — The latest touring Broadway show in town fails spectacularly. It’s supposed to.The Play That Goes Wrong had a full house at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts laughing almost the entire time, in a way I have never heard bef...
Published: 10/17/18
Last year, the arts got little state money. This year, arts groups are watching.

Last year, the arts got little state money. This year, arts groups are watching.

In March, the state slashed funding for hundreds of Florida’s arts and cultural programs by 90 percent. The dropoff came as a blow to the gut, like downsizing from two loaves of bread to one piece.After three straight years of cuts, arts nonprofit or...
Published: 10/17/18
What’s on stage this week: Aziz Ansari, Florida Orchestra fetes Queen, Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’

What’s on stage this week: Aziz Ansari, Florida Orchestra fetes Queen, Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’

After months of lying low, Aziz Ansari is back in the spotlight. The St. Petersburg Opera, Hat Trick Theatre and Radio Theatre Project open their seasons.
Published: 10/17/18
Realignment at Big Bend intersection promises safer traffic flow after construction headaches

Realignment at Big Bend intersection promises safer traffic flow after construction headaches

GIBSONTON – A new north-south road is coming to relieve traffic along U.S. 301, but making way for it promises some short-term traffic headaches for a South Shore region already stymied by congestion.The new road would run more than four miles...
Published: 10/16/18
Updated: 10/17/18
‘Edgar & Emily’ imagines literary legends sharing verses and souls

‘Edgar & Emily’ imagines literary legends sharing verses and souls

TAMPA — Pale candlelight and a comforter on the king-sized bed sets a ghostly mood for Edgar & Emily, which Jobsite Theater has scheduled to run beyond Halloween. David Jenkins directs Joseph McDonough’s comedy, which premiered six months ago in sout...
Published: 10/15/18
Updated: 10/18/18
Where to find Tampa Bay Halloween parties, pumpkin patches and events

Where to find Tampa Bay Halloween parties, pumpkin patches and events

Experience everything from kid-friendly events to horrifying haunted houses to spooky art projects this weekend in Tampa Bay.
Published: 10/11/18
Ernest Hooper: Tampa Bay Food Fight brings chefs, foodies together for good cause

Ernest Hooper: Tampa Bay Food Fight brings chefs, foodies together for good cause

The participants will fight for bragging rights, and the chance to help aspiring culinary artists.
Published: 10/10/18