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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Opera review: Comedy and entertainment buoy Abduction from the Seraglio at Elgin Theatre

By John Terauds on October 26, 2013

Ambur Braid, Lawrence Wiliford, Adam Fisher and Carla Huhtanen in Opera Atelier's production of Abduction from the Seraglio (Bruce Zinger photo).
Ambur Braid, Lawrence Wiliford, Adam Fisher and Carla Huhtanen in Opera Atelier’s production of Abduction from the Seraglio (Bruce Zinger photo).

Opera Atelier’s remount of its kinetic-and-colourful five-year-old production of Mozart’s Abduction From the Seraglio is the art music world’s equivalent of a well-crafted Hollywood romantic comedy: Entertainment, pure and simple.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

The curtain rose on Saturday night’s opening show at the Elgin Theatre to reveal a fantastic cast of singers and dancers, a rich, clever staging and wonderful playing from Tafelmusik, the city’s premier period-instrument orchestra.

As conductor David Fallis teased out the colours in Mozart’s rich orchestration, the results of director Marshall Pynkoski’s planning played out like well-oiled clockwork.

And make no mistake, clockwork this is, from the laugh-out-loud commedia del’arte characters to the inevitable happy ending, where the two sets of young lovers — one from upstairs, one from below stairs — can enjoy the sweet fruits of romantic obstacles overcome.

The Viennese loved this opera at its premiere in 1782, and it’s easy to see why. One of Opera Atelier’s nods to connecting to a modern audience has been to ask the cast to speak in English but sing in the original German. It’s odd, but it works.

The staging takes on a life of its own, especially with the likes of sopranos Ambur Braid and Carla Huhtanen and tenors Lawrence Wiliford and Adam Fisher. These Canadians not only sing beautifully, but prance across the stage with ease.

The ancillary cast members are also fine, and choreographer Janette Lajeunesse Zingg has created some diverting dance sequences that emphasize as well as make light of the Turkish-Arab storyline of how the Pasha Selim fails to make amorous headway with the English lady his men have abducted at sea.

All of Mozart’s operas succeed or fail on the strength of the ensemble work, and here Pynkoski has struck gold. These young singers, part of the cream of the Canadian crop, appear to enjoy each others’ company on stage as much as the roles they have to sing — and that energy is infectious.

Kudos to the colour-saturated support of Gerard Gauci’s sets and Margaret Lamb’s costumes, which reveal enough manly buttocks to satisfy the most ardent glute goggler. Bonnie Beecher’s lighting makes it all (not just hips and thighs) come alive magnificently.

Performances continue to Nov. 2. You’ll find more information here.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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