Geneva Light Opera presents “The Abduction from the Seraglio” on stage in Geneva
Only Mozart could turn an opera about kidnapping, human trafficking and misunderstandings between religions into comedic gold.
Geneva Light Opera presents “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” a farcically romantic comic opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with cheeky laughs, a twist ending, and a virtuosic score in the historic Smith Opera House.
Brimming with love, lust and longing, infused with a lust for life and some barely concealed love for lust, “The Abduction from the Seraglio” was one of Mozart’s most successful operas during the famed composer’s lifetime. The work explores conflicts between nationalities and cultures with the lightest and most sophisticated of touches. The exotically colorful score includes some of Mozart’s most brilliant, extreme and virtuosic arias while the production also succeeds at being a funny and boisterous tale of one man’s attempt to save the love of his life.
Tenor Michael Anderson leads as Belmonte, the Spanish nobleman seeking to rescue his kidnapped fiancée, Constanza, who has been sold as a slave to the immensely wealthy head of the Ottoman Empire. Metropolitan Opera National Auditions winner, dramatic coloratura soprano Alexis Olinyk is Constanza — one of Mozart’s most spectacularly challenging roles — and soprano Michelle Seipel is her feisty and also enslaved chambermaid, Blonda. Tenor Andres Lasaga is Belmonte’s enslaved valet, Pedrillo, who must engineer his master’s dangerous rescue plan. Brian Keith Johnson commands the stage in the non-singing role of the all-powerful Pasha Selim.
In 1781, 25-year-old Mozart had already achieved considerable fame for his talent as a pianist and violinist; he spent much of his youth touring Europe with his parents and sister performing recitals and concerts for nobles. After spending a few years in the service of Archbishop Colloredo in Salzburg, Mozart left to pursue a career as a freelance performer and composer in Vienna. What followed was a period of great productivity and success. This opera, “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” was written at the request of the Austrian emperor Joseph II. It premiered on July 16, 1782 at the old Burgtheater in Vienna, Austria with Mozart conducting and quickly enhanced his reputation across the Continent.
After the premiere, it is said that Emperor Joseph II, whose musical tastes inclined towards the conservative, gave his opinion of the opera to Mozart: “Too beautiful for our ears, my dear Mozart, and an awful lot of notes.” To which the composer rejoined: “Exactly as many as are necessary, Your Majesty.” The Emperor was amused by such repartee. It isn’t certain if this episode ever took place, but if the Emperor really said that, Mozart’s reply was in line with his personality and with the fact he knew the quality of his music. As a composer, Mozart was far ahead of his time and aware of it.