James Robinson’ s production of Mozart’ s Abduction from the Seraglio for the Boston Lyric Opera has the action transferred to a train trip in the Orient Express, depicted as three wagons that move lengthwise according to each scene. In this concept, the Pasha Selim is a dandy, Blondchen is self-interested and smokes a lot and Osmin… well, Osmin resists updating and stays more or less like he usually is. Listening to the text translated to English has less to do with the feeling of musical theater than the slapstick comedy touches. Actually, there are many imaginative ideas going on there and the singers/actors generally cope well with the stage director’ s demands, which is mostly attentive to the text in order to avoid mismatch between what we see and what the text says. As for the translation, the flowing nature of English language robs a great deal of the cacophonic patter explored by Mozart in this Singspiel – Osmin and Blondchen’ s duet is the main victim of that.
Considering that we were probably hearing a pick-up band, conductor Willie Anthony Waters did a good job on playing safe and choosing considerate tempi in order to achieve clarity and finish. The results were hardly illuminating, but decent and unobtrusive. He is also a most attentive maestro for singers, helping them through difficult passages – something to be cherished considered the limits of his cast.
Mary Dunleavy has sung bel canto roles at the Metropolitan Opera House, but from what I could see today hers is rather a light coloratura struggling through a role helplessly heavy for her. The basic sound is remniscent of Natalie Dessay’s, except that she is strained when required to sing anything above high c (a liability in this role), her runs have their dangerous moments and she cannot float a mezza voce to save her life. Although she is a musicianly and sensitive artist, her singing makes one realize how difficult the role of Konstanze is. I understand that at this stage of her career, she must take risks to continue on the limelight, but heavy usages as this one cannot be healthy. Her Blondchen, Amanda Pabyan, is in the beginning of her career, but her grainy and metallic soprano sound distinctively less pleasant and young-sounding, in spite of a likeable personality and theatrical commitment. Norman Reinhardt’ s Belmonte was far more accomplished – he is a stylish Mozartian with more than enough technique to deal with the tricky writing Mozart reserved him. It is not the dulcet voice one expects to hear in this role, though. Timothy Oliver is a congenial Pedrillo, but the heroic patches of Frisch zum Kampfe test him. My first impression of David M. Cushing’ s bass is that it seriously lack focus. It is a sizeable and dark enough instrument and he is more precise with his divisions than many a famous singer recorded in studios on the other hand. I was going to say he is a bit short in the impossibly lower end of his range – but that is a sin he shares with almost everyone else, isn’t it?