Seraglio review - Herald Sun

MORE than 230 years since its premiere, The Abduction from the Seraglio still dazzles with thrusting, youthful energy.

Melbourne Opera’s new production of the entertaining singspiel that Mozart penned at the age of 25 is a little uneven in delivery, but it gives spark and appealing freshness to the work.

Director Suzanne Chaundy takes inspiration from the danger, exploits and exoticism that characterised 1970’s spy movies, transferring the original Turkish palace and harem setting to an isolated Mediterranean island over which international man of mystery, billionaire Pasha Selim, presides.

Villains, victims and heroes are wittily reimagined and the story’s pliant credibility never detracts from the original.

With Secret Service connections, British aristocrat “Belmonte, James Belmonte” parachutes on to the island in search of his golden girl and German opera star Konstanze. She has been kidnapped, along with Belmonte’s friend Pedrillo and Kostanze’s PA Blonde, by Pasha Selim.

But Selim’s protected world shows cracks under the incompetent Chief of Security, Osmin. Belmonte gains entry, but is caught, and though the captives look doomed, their lives are spared by Selim’s goodwill.

As a distressed but determined Konstanze, Lee Abrahmsen navigated Mozart’s perilous scribblings with confidence, her radiant, shapely soprano projecting large.

The work’s musical apex, Act 2’s Martern aller Artel — Tortures unrelenting, in which Konstanze fears Selim’s intent to use force on her, is one of opera’s great aria showpieces and Abrahmsen rendered it with all its beguiling flamboyance.

In pursuit by Osmin, brightly voiced Hannah Dahlenburg infuses Blonde with pert, peachy and no-mess attitude. Her characterful Cockney boyfriend, Pedrillo, is a standout with Paul Biencourt’s high antics.

Eddie Muliaumaseali’i thunders hugely as a cumbersome Osmin and Nick Pelomis gives a slick performance in the speaking role of the temperamental Selim.

Conductor Greg Hocking incisively tapped into the score and, though a few stray sounds and timing issues seeped through from the 33-strong Melbourne Opera Orchestra, the sound was sumptuous.

Andrew Bellchambers’s Moorish-inspired set designs create spatial interest and exotic flair. Daniel Harvey’s costumes add a touch of resort-like glamour and with Lucy Birkinshaw’s vivid lighting, the stage presents a marvellous theatrical escape.

....there’s much to enjoy on the adventure and when Mozart is boisterous you can’t not be energised.

by Paul Selar

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