FLORIDA GRAND OPERA
THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO (11-11-06)

By Lawrence Budmen

Florida Grand Opera is on a roll. After a thrilling Aida (the opening attraction at the Carnival Centerís Ziff Opera House), the company continued its Mozart cycle with a production of Die Enfurung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) that was a captivating Turkish delight. Mozartís incandescent score enchanted the senses at the opening performance on November 11. 

James Robinsonís production resets the piece in the 1920ís on the Orient Express. Pasha Selim is a Turkish playboy who showers Konstanze (his erstwhile captive) with gifts and elegant clothing in a vain effort to gain her love. After she is rescued by the nobleman Belmonte, the Pasha (who has granted the couple pardon and mercy) is left hapless and disinterested in his Turkish harem.

This updated approach works remarkably well. Director Samuel Mungoís clever staging keeps the action moving. The pace is fast; the sight gags funny but never distracting from the music. Allen Moyerís elegant train set is eye catching; Anna R. Oliverís costumes are fetching. From the menís handsome suits to Konstanze spectacular, Hollywood glamour girl evening gowns, this production is a feast for the eyes. Lighting designers Paul Palazzo and Kendall Smithís soft pastels frame the period sets beautifully.

FGOís attractive cast delivers some wonderful Mozart singing. Konstanze has to be one of the most daunting soprano roles in the repertoire. Jennifer Casey Cabot brings movie star glamour, striking theatrical presence, and a formidable voice to the role. It took her an act to warm up but she dashed off the fiendish aria Marten aller Arten (in Act II) with confidence and stunning accuracy. Her coloratura is often brilliant; her vocal coloration embraces a wide palette. As her lover Belmonte, Brian Anderson displayed a finely spun lyric tenor that caressed Mozartís vocal lines. In the treacherous high register, he was firm and secure.

As Konstanzeís maid Blonde, Katherine Jolly was a delightful soubrette with a light, captivating soprano voice. Miami native and University of Miami graduate Javier Abreu was a dashing Pedrillo. His fine musicianship shone particularly well in the ensembles. Indeed the glorious ensemble that concludes Act II was superbly sung by these four gifted artists.

Bass Mikhail Svetlov cut a pompous figure as Osmin, the Pashaís guard. While Svetlov lacks the deep, low register that made the late Kurt Moll so stunning in this role, he brought a fine bass and nimble musicality to his two arias and was genuinely funny. Jeffrey Buchman was aristocratic, even sympathetic in the speaking role of the Pasha. (Buchman is a fine baritone in his own right.) 

Stewart Robertsonís scintillating conducting kept Mozartís music bubbly and effervescent. He takes a period instrument style approach with vibratoless strings and bright wind playing. Thanks to Robertsonís alert direction, Act III does not emerge as anti-climactic. The entire production flows in one long musical arc.

Florida Grand Opera has done it again. This delightful Abduction is a capital tribute to the Mozart anniversary year!


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