Sunday, March 15, 2009

Il Seraglio at the Lyric

We were fortunate enough to make it up to Chicago on Friday evening for the Lyric Opera's performance of Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio (Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail). The production was attractive, although the set had a few odd quirks (a large platform with an exposed substructure formed the main set for Act II---and the chorus came out twice and rotated the entire thing for no particular reason; the only set for Act III was a lone door stood in the middle of the stage).

Chas Rader Shieber did a good job supplementing the humor: a troupe of blindfolded wenches spend most of the opera being led from one part of the pasha's palace to another, to comic effect; Pedrillo conveniently retrieves a lute from the prompter's box, and Osmin and Blonde take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by their feuding. However, at the same time there were oddities. The production appears to portray the story as a reminiscence of the pasha---an aged doppelganger silently stalks the pasha throughout the opera, swooning at Konstanze's beauty. Likewise, three burkha-ed women wander in occasionally, although they appear actually to "be there." Why not just tell the story? I'm looking at you, Achim Freyer.

I saw a nameless commenter on an work the other day who described Die Entfuhrung as one of the three greatest opera (have we gotten to the point where we ought to treat the word as singular? I am unsure) of all time---Don Giovanni and Cosi fan Tutti rounded out his triumvirate. Frankly, I had never heard of it until seeing it on Lyric's schedule. While beautiful, I don't know that I would lavish that sort of praise on it. I simply am not willing to accept that the art form reached its apex with the singspiel.

Be that as it may, high marks go to Aleksandra Kurzak (Blonde) and Andrea Silvestrelli (Osmin). Erin Wall's Konstanze was gorgeous, but amazingly staid. I am inclined to suspect, given the character, that the somber, near-plodding tone is built into her part and thus that she executed perfectly. But if that is the case I simply don't care for the role quite as much; the pain of forlorn love could stand a bit more expression. Matthew Polenzani (Belmonte) did a fine job as well, sticking out all three uncut acts and four arias with beauty and melody. He was, however, notably quiet. The Civic Opera House possesses superb accoustics (and we had stupendous seats, at least compared to the second-balcony eyries my parents always had at the Memphis Orpheum Theater)---but Polenzani remained quiet even over the small Mozart orchestra. Steve Davislim sang Pedrillo with a cough and did an excellent job. David Steiger's Pasha Selim was not objectionable, simply ordinary. I remain impressed with maestro Sr. Andrew Davis, but without a familiarity of the piece I lack standing to pass on whether he gave a "good" reading.

All in all, a superb outing. We brought along a dear friend and a lovely lady of his acquaintance for their first operatic performance, and were pleased to see them enjoy the outing. I wish immensely that I could make it back to Chicago on the 20th or 27th for Cavalleria and Pagliacci, but I don't see it happening, sadly.

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