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Published February 4, 2016

Opera is definitely not for everyone, although The Abduction From Serglio certainly makes the art form much more accessible than most. This is partially due to the fact that the performance is mostly in English (with a few exceptions), and partly due to the fact that the director (Suzanne Chaundy) decided to actually play the performance for laughs instead of serious (which apparently has been done before). If you have flirted with the idea of going to an opera, then this comedy is definitely a good way of dipping your toes in without getting too bogged down with heavy drama that typifies operas.

Before starting on the opera itself, here is some advice if you do wish to go to an opera: make sure the particular aria is completed before you start clapping. In the first third, someone started applauding in a pause, and it actually caused the singer who performed Konstanze (Lee Abrahmsen) to start beaming – which was distracting as it was supposed to be about her lamenting her lost love and living in agony. Although at least no-one got an obnoxious call in the middle of the show.

Melbourne Opera The Abduction from the Seraglio Production Still - Images by Robin Halls21

The props and costumes thoroughly suited the over-the-top, slightly ridiculous nature of the show. Bright colours, dressing gowns, bad 1970’s moustaches, and inflatable pool toy all made appearances that lightened the mood. In fact, the light-hearted nature saved the day in many respects, as there was an accident when Paul Biencourt (who played Pedrillo) knocked over a few of the drinks on a drink cart. Fortunately, this worked very well with the general ambience, and Eddie Muliaumaseali’i (who played Osmin) kept the laughter going when just started drinking straight from the bottle. Had this been a serious production, it would have been very difficult to play the accident off, but as it was, the show was actually enhanced by it.

The above mentioned accident couldn’t have been possible had it not been for the quick thinking of the performers involved. Muliaumaseali’i and Biencourt certainly managed to play a comedic pair very well, with Biencourt’s “Pedrillo” managing to outsmart Muliaumaseali’i’s Osmin at every turn. Hannah Dahlenburg (Blonde) also managed to have excellent moments, both with Muliaumaseali’i (again, outsmarting and generally besting him onstage) as well as managing to bring a strong and independent character to life. And the fact that all the actors managed to add little flourishes (like Muliaumaseali’i drinking from a spilt prop, or the Dahlenburg and Biencourt’s comforting at the back of the stage when they were captured) really added depth to the performance. It should be noted that there was an actor (Nick Polemis), not an opera singer, playing the part of the mysterious Pasha, which was a very interesting mix with the opera singers, and in many ways helped keep the performance moving (Mozart’s music can be a little repetitive at times after all).

Melbourne Opera The Abduction from the Seraglio Production Still - Paul Biencourt as Pedrillo, Eddie Muliaumaseali'i - Image by Robin Halls1

The orchestra performed fantastically. Although it almost sounded as though there were three percussionists when there was one. It should be noted that Mozart’s music can be a little repetitive at times, although the light-hearted nature of the performance meant that it fitted in quite well. Of course, if you like Mozart’s music, or are not overly familiar with his works, then you’re in for a treat.

From a singing perspective, there were mostly strong performances all round. The two sopranos (Dahlenburg and Abrahmsen) were stunning, with Abrahmsen’s pieces being particularly powerful – especially in the arias she sung in German. Muliaumaseali’i’s baritone was a highlight of the show, managing to have presence without dominating the other singers entirely. The skill of all the vocalists was very apparent, and they managed to convey strong emotions with their voices (as well as their expressions and mannerisms), which ranged from mildly concerned or even distraught through to cheeky, overjoyed, and even relieved.

Now, the show wasn’t perfect. Aside from one or two inevitable slight wrong notes (which always happen in live performances and were barely noticeable), the alto of Belmonte (Christopher Lincoln Bogg) was a little weak at times, and even sounded as though he had a very slight cold. His performance was still very good, but it did tend to be drowned out by the stronger voices of Abrahmsen, Muliaumaseali’i, and even Biencourt. Also, if you’re a purist then you will be disappointed, as most of the opera was sung in English. Whilst the “purity” debate is for another time and place, in some ways listening to an opera in English can be a little distracting (as you actually focus on the story rather than the music). That being said, considering that a lot of the dialogue was spoken, and it was a comedy, it is probably better for all involved that it was in English.

Melbourne Opera The Abduction from the Seraglio Production Still - - Hannah Dahlenburg and Blonde, Eddie Muliaumaseali'i as Osmin - Images by Robin Halls3

Overall, a strong performance from the vocalists, musicians, and production crew. As stated earlier, this opera is great if you are just looking at getting into the art form, but is also enjoyable if you are a regular viewer of different operas. Although there were some mishaps on stage, the performers recovered very well, and managed to incorporate it into the show. Funny, light, and enjoyable, the performance is definitely worth looking in to.

is on at the Athenaeum Theatre on Friday the 5th and Tuesday the 19th of February at 7:30pm. Tickets are available via Ticketek.com.au 

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