Music critic and journalist
     Cheryl North :: Reviews

San Francisco Opera Performance of The Abduction from the Seraglio by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Review of the performance published in the Preview Section of papers of the Bay Area News Group on October 2nd, 2009, under headline, S.F. Opera's 'Abduction' does away with tedium

By Cheryl North

The San Francisco Opera is really on a roll. Critics and audiences alike extol its 2009-2010 season opener, Verdi's Il Trovatore, as a top-of-the-scale success; its second offering, Puccini's Il Trittico, as a winning artistic coup, and now, most are praising its latest staging of Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio as a massively entertaining 18th century romp. Despite economic hard times, General Manager David Gockley seems to have a keen sensitivity to the pulse of the public.

Frankly, up until Seraglio's Sept. 23 opening, I always considered the work too long and too tedious -- in short, a bit of a bore. But, no more.

The S.F.Opera show, which included unashamedly picture-book sets, done up in gorgeous confetti colors designed by David Zinn, were mated beautifully to director Chas Rader-Shieber's unabashedly merry, don't-take-me-too-seriously direction. To further the fun, Cornelius Meister of Germany, in what was his United States debut, conducted the fray with contagious good spirits. Moreover, there were all sorts of clever sight gags and high jinks among the janissaries, women of the harem, and Osmin's guards.

And the singing? Matthew Polenzani made a thrilling Belmonte with his clear, ringing, pitch-perfect Mozart tenor and beautiful Mary Dunleavy, although a bit strident of voice initially, soon settled into a lovely, expressive Constanze with fine coloratura flourishes. Peter Rose, with his expressive bass voice and splendid gift for comedy, created a blustery, but surprisingly loveable Osmin. Anna Christy's creamy voice and playful stage presence resulted in an adorable "Blonde"; Adler Fellow, tenor Andrew Bidlack, a fine, athletic Pedrillo; and Charles Shaw Robinson, an appropriately wise Saladin-like Pasha. Costumes were terrific - and thankfully, the music staff made some very judicious, welcome (to me at least) cuts in the score.

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