Tuesday, August 21, 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.

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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.

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