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Mozart 'Abduction' Opera Steals Its Way To The Chandler Stage

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One of Mozart's early stage works, The Abduction from the Seraglio (or the "harem," if you will) is a perennial programming staple (if not quite a full-fledged favorite) in opera houses everywhere. Like other pieces in the composer's earlier years, the score and story line here are infused with idiomatically "Turkish" thematic and musical influences. In tradition stagings of this opera, the characters' schemes, disguises, romantic resistances and attempted escapes are all situated inside and on the grounds of a 17th century Turkish pasha's palace.

The current LA Opera production, however, radically shifts the opera's setting to a chain of compartments in a train running along the classic Orient Express line from Istanbul to Paris in the 1920s. Allen Moyer's moving train set and Anna R. Oliver's jazz age period costumes (which come with a Turkish influence) provide a satisfying "wow" factor, though the altered time and place do not substantially recontextualize our impressions of the power plays being waged before us.

The ensemble cast assembled for this run at the Chandler is uneven, but Morris Robinson as the walrus-moustached, prodigiously baggy-dimijed buffoonish henchman Osmin, as well as So Young Park as his uninterested love interest Blonde steal the show in their comedic roles. Other characterizations are a bit too subdued to make the action pop, though Joel Prieto as the romantic lead Belmonte is a pleasure to listen to, from the opera's opening aria to a late duet with his tomantic counterpart Konstanze.

LA Opera (and also the LA Phil, for that matter) have set a high bar for audiences here in recent years with one compelling Mozart production after another. Partly because Abduction is a less mature work than the others, this one is not as dynamic as what we've gotten used to. Still, James Conlon and the orchestra are on point as always in highlighting the characteristic charms of these operas. For high drama, though, we'd wait for Salome, which opens in a few weeks.

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LA Opera's Abduction from the Seraglio plays four more times through February 19 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Discount tickets to some performances are available on goldstar.