Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) opened at San Francisco Opera yesterday evening. The production, designed by David Zinn, features an adorable 18th century theatre and lavish costumes. Director Chas Rader-Shieber did not use the set to its best advantage. There were some amusing moments, as when the Pasha's ship zipped by in the background, or when a door appeared in the middle of the stage. Unfortunately, for the most part, the opera was just not as funny as it could have been. The choreography was artificial and poorly motivated. The members of the chorus looked and sounded especially uncomfortable as they very carefully synchronized their arm movements.
Under Cornelius Meister, the orchestra was clear, albeit papery and dry. The triangle seemed to have a bit of trouble at the end of the overture and was not with the cymbals or the bass drum. As for the principal singers, everyone sounded perfectly nice, for the most part. The cast fluidly switched from their English dialogue to the German singing, though perhaps it would have made more sense to sing in English as well.
Peter Rose was funny as Osmin, his voice is pleasant, but his low notes are not strong. He was not with the orchestra for parts of "Wer ein Liebchen hat gefunden" or in the trio at the end of Act I, but was better for the rest of the opera. Andrew Bidlack sounded lovely as Pedrillo, he was weak at times during Act II, but was wonderful during the seranade "In Mohrenland gefangen war ein Mädel." Anna Christy (Blonde) was as cute as ever, she twittered her way through, occasionally with a lot of vibrato, but much warmth. Mary Dunleavy fared less well, the top of her voice is sometimes strained and shrill, particularly in her first aria. Her voice can be angelic and she held up during "Welcher Wechsel herrscht...Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose." As our hero Belmonte, Matthew Polenzani looked stiff but sang his arias with beauty.
* Tattling *
The audience talked during the English dialogue, but were quiet for the music. A person next to us in standing room exclaimed something when he realized the dialogue was to be in English, he seemed rather unhappy.