Monday, April 11, 2011

An Unexpected Abduction

One of the cultural advantages of living in Arizona is that we have a professional local opera company that performs in both Phoenix and Tucson.  This weekend they presented the last opera of their 2010-2011 season, Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio.  I had never seen Abduction, either in person or on TV,  but reluctantly decided that we couldn't afford to go.  I was overjoyed, therefore, when our good friends Jo and Jim offered us their tickets.  They had just returned from a trip and were too tired to sit through a three-hour performance.  We spent a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon thanks to their generosity.

Mozart wrote Abduction when he was only 26.  If you saw the movie Amadeus, this is the piece of which the Emperor Joseph said, "Too many notes."  The plot of Abduction is pretty simple: Belafonte, a Spanish nobleman, wants to free his fiance, his servant, and the servant's girlfriend from the clutches of Turkish Pasha Selim.  The first act is in fact a little lengthy, but the second and third acts are witty and much faster-moving, and the music is of course Mozart.  The Act II quartet involving the four main characters is particularly fine.

In addition to the musical passages, Abduction contains a fair amount of spoken dialogue.  This production translated the speaking parts into English, while retaining the original German (with surtitles) for the songs.  This was a little disconcerting, although it did make the action much easier to understand. 

At any rate, the principal singers were in good voice, the dancing girls were beautiful, and the period costumes were colorful and attractive.  I'm not sure why this piece is not performed more often;  I think it's a wonderful example of light opera.  It seemed to me to be the spiritual forerunner of Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado and Pirates of Penzance.

"I have always believed that opera is a planet where the muses work together, join hands and celebrate all the arts."  ~Franco Zeffirelli

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