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Riotous Mozart

The Elgin Theatre
10/26/2013 -  & October 27, 29, 30, November 1, 2, 2013
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K. 384
Ambur Braid (Konstanze), Carla Huhtanen (Blondchen), Lawrence Williford (Belmonte), Adam Fisher (Pedrillo), Gustav Andreassen (Osmin), Curtis Sullivan (Pasha Selim)
Opera Atelier Chorus, The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, David Fallis (conductor)
Marshall Pynkoski (director), Gerard Gauci (set designer), Margaret Lamb (costume designer), Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg (choreographer), Bonnie Beecher (lighting designer)

A, Braid, L. Williford, A. Fisher, C. Huhtanen (© Bruce Zinger)

Opera Atelier specializes in productions that are lively and colourful, and their Abduction from the Seraglio, sung in German with spoken dialogue in English, is arguably the liveliest and most colourful of all. The current production is a revival of their 2008 production, described in detail here on ConcertoNet.

The revival most definitely fulfills director Marshal Pynkoski’s view that the work is Mozart’s “most outrageous comedy”. Comic byplay never lets up and is in fact redoubled in what are musically the most serious moments of the opera, during Konstanze’s anguished aria “Martern aller Arten” and the quartet in Act II when the two swains ask their sweethearts whether or not they have succumbed to the blandishments of the lovelorn Turks.

As in 2008, David Fallis propels the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in what still seems to be the only period instrument production of this work on this side of the Atlantic. Also, three cast members return to their previous roles: Carla Huhtanen as Blondchen, Gustav Andreassen as Osmin, and Curtis Sullivan as Pasha Selim - all well cast.

Lawrence Williford was Pedrillo in 2008 and is now Belmonte, a role (like Don Ottavio, which he has also performed for OA) that suits his voice. Ambur Braid tackles the daunting role of Konstanze with her usual no-holds-barred approach. Konstanze is widely regarded as being an opera seria character marooned in a knockabout libretto but in this production she has to display comedic chops - which Ms Braid does extremely well.

New to the company is Adam Fisher (Pedrillo), a recent alumnus of Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artists Program. If his voice has moments of less-than-ideal projection I chalk it up to the sound-swallowing acoustic of the Elgin Theatre. He evinces delight in performing in the company’s ultra-physical production style and I look forward to seeing him in future productions.

There seemed to be quite a few empty seats on opening night. Both OA productions this year are revivals - perhaps the company's usually avid audience would prefer to see new productions of rare works, a policy that has certainly worked for Opera Atelier in the past.

Michael Johnson



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