‘Abduction’ is an opera for opera lovers

‘Abduction’ is an opera for opera lovers

Madison Opera’s weekend production of “The Abduction From the Seraglio” is an opera for opera lovers.

That doesn’t mean it is some highbrow operation that is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.

The opera was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1782, has a slapstick plot and contains some of the most beautiful singing we’ve heard in a long time.

But it is also a somewhat obscure opera. Madison Opera is the only United States opera company featuring the opera this year. The Metropolitan Opera in New York – sort of the arbiter of American opera – didn’t even stage its first production until 1946 – and then waited 30 years to try it again.

The audience at Friday night’s opening was more stereotyped than is usual in the city. Some women were wearing furs. The men seemed to be a bit more formally dressed than we’d expect on a cold February night.

And, even though the opera is a bit rare, a fair amount of intermission discussion seemed to be about the places people had seen the opera staged in the past.

For the rest of us, here’s the story about “The Abduction From the Seraglio.”

First of all, a “seraglio” is a harem, which does not mean it is a bordello. A harem was the suite of rooms a sultan or Islamic ruler might have to house his wives and concubines.

This opera is set in Turkey, where the Pasha Selim has taken three Europeans, Konstanze, a Spanish noblewoman, Blonde, her English maid and Pedrillo, Blonde’s boyfriend, prisoner.

Konstanze’s role is sung by Amanda Woodbury, who previously has sung “The Magic Flute” for Madison Opera. Blonde is sung by Ashley Neumann, who is making her Madison debut and Pedrillo is Eric Neuville, who previously was in Madison for “Little Women.”

As the opera opens, Konstanze’s lover, Belmonte (sung by David Walton, who was featured in Opera in the Park last summer), arrives at the Pasha’s castle wanting to find his lover. He is confronted by Osmin (Matt Boehler), the palace overseer, who informs him that not only is Konstanze a slave but that the Pasha, himself, wants her for his own.

The rest of the plot you can predict. Belmonte and Pedrillo drug Osmin and try to sneak the women out of the palace, but the Pasha catches them, threatens them with death but, then, decides to be charitable and lets them all return to Europe.

The opera is sung in German, but includes a great deal of spoken dialogue, which is in English.

It includes absolutely beautiful arias and surprisingly good acting. Pedrillo, in particular, is a believable buffoon. It is all too easy to overplay a role like tha t but Neuville doesn’t overdo it.