Thursday, September 24, 2009

SFO: The Abduction from the Seraglio

San Francisco Opera
The Abduction from the Seraglio

Wed Sep 23 2009 7:30 pm

Conductor: Cornelius Meister
Director: Chas Rader-Shieber

Belmonte: Matthew Polenzani
Osmin: Peter Rose
Pedrillo: Andrew Bidlack
Pasha Selim: Charles Shaw Robinson
Constanze: Mary Dunleavy
Blonde: Anna Christy

If I had read my program more carefully, I would not have been so surprised when Belmonte started speaking English after singing the opening aria in German. The fellow next to me was equally startled, & muttered "Oh no" at the same moment. Though I appreciate how much more audience-friendly it is to do the copious dialog in English, I never got used to the switching back forth.

The setting, an 18th century theater, complete with box seats & chandeliers, is very pretty, as are the matching 18th century costumes. However, the director did not exploit the opportunity to present a play-within-a-play. While there are some charming comic touches, such as a toy boat that appears in the distance, I often felt that many chances for silliness were passed up. The escape attempt in Act III seems perfunctory, & I never believed in the Europeans' predicament.

Conductor Cornelius Meister is impressively young, & his biography already includes a Ring in Riga. I found his conducting to be a bit square, though, which can be deadly for Mozart. Matthew Polenzani as Belmonte is a very idiomatic Mozart singer, with great breath control & an even sound. Andrew Bidlack as Pedrillo was asked to really ham it up, & it was odd to hear him use expressions like "What's up?" while Pasha Selim used vocabulary containing "wouldst" & "thou". Mary Dunleavy has a somewhat weighty soprano, & I liked her in her 1st Act II aria "Welcher Kummer herrscht in meiner Seele." Anna Christy was appropriately bright & chipper as Blonde. Peter Rose was able to hit Osmin's impossibly low notes, though with somewhat reduced volume. The Osmin & Blonde duet at the beginning of Act II was a comic highlight of the evening.

I was happy to get a chance to check out this show in a prime Stehplatz location, thanks to some habitués of the standing room scene. However, I must re-iterate that I am not married to anyone who was in standing room last night, despite the unseemly displays of camaraderie & merriment occurring just before curtain time.


Unknown said...

I would have thought that "displays of camaraderie & merriment" tend to dispel rumors of marriage--not spread them.

Axel Feldheim said...

Yes, I believe you are right, David. People are always misinterpreting these situations. I suppose whenever one sees a couple at the opera or the symphony, the assumption is that one partner dragged the other there.

Anonymous said...

You were making out, weren't you!

Axel Feldheim said...

Perish the thought! Now that really would be unseemly, wouldn't it!