- Reporters Desk
By John Farrell, Curtain Call Writer
Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio is a comic singspiel about Turks and Christians.
Written more than two centuries ago, Abduction is about rescue and redemption and a Moslem leader who is more merciful than his Christian counterparts. This all is told in spoken word and delightful tunes, and in a fanciful setting that has been adapted to all kinds of productions.
The Pacific Opera Project’s Abduction played for one weekend at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. While many would assume that it was the first time that the production was transformed into a Star Trek episode, they’d be wrong.
Pacific Opera Project co-founder and artistic director, Josh Shaw, did it originally at the Southern Illinois Music Festival in 2014. He got the idea from the work’s slightly fantastic plot, renamed the characters (the Moslems became Klingons, the rescuers a starship crew) and shortened and changed the text to fit a 2-hour production.
The result was a comic masterpiece, even if there wasn’t quite as much Mozartean music as there usually is. It wasn’t the full opera but we’d bet even Mozart, if he knew Star Trek, would have enjoyed it.
The opera, on a set that mirrored the modest sets of the earliest Star Trek episodes, starred tenor Brian Cheney as Capt. James T. Belmonte, a swaggering and charming Star Fleet captain in the mold of Capt. James T. Kirk, beaming down to rescue his kidnapped beloved Lt. Constanza (the delightful Shawnette Sulker) on a planet inhabited by Klingons.
Chief among them is Phil Meyer as Osmin, every bit as annoying and funny as a Klingon as he is in other versions as a noisome Turk. Meyer dominated every scene he was in, singing with real power and being both threatening and very funny. Osmin is a dark character, but you have to laugh at him.
Belmonte is aided by Mr. Pedrillo, the bright Robert Norman, who sings his heart out in pursuit of Blondie (Claire Averill) who, dressed in harem clothes, is desired by Osmin but is feisty and independent and more than a match for her persecutor. Gregg Lawrence is Chancellor Belim, a speaking role invested with much dignity.
Stephen Karr conducted the still-substantial score with skill, and managed to keep up with the stage antics. (Folks in the audience were surprised they recognized the opera, which is featured in the film Amadeus.) Still, the opera was much easier to understand if you were a Star Trek fan.
Pacific Opera Project is a young company, but they have found a way to make opera accessible. Their next production, Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, set for May 14 through 23 at the Ebell Club of Highland Park, should be another exciting event. They are also doing Verdi’s Falstaff in September and Donizetti’s Viva la Mamma in November.