Saturday, August 4, 2018

Bare resources, bold ideas and a job well done in BK Opera's Abduction: Herald Sun Review

Published in Melbourne's Herald Sun in print in edited form, 20th July 2018.
Not published online at Herald Sun.

On arrival, you might be warmly greeted by a squeaky-clean moralising odd-bod asking if Satan has tried to come into your life today. Welcome to Abduction, director Kate Millett’s intriguing adaptation of Mozart’s exotic and musically arabesque singspiel, The Abduction from the Seraglio

Aleksander Laupmaa as Selim and Belinda Dalton as Costanze
Despite BK Opera’s barest of resources, Millett is never short of fresh ideas in her quest to reinforce opera with an edge. From Mozart’s “escape” opera - about four Europeans confined within the Pasha Selim’s harem in 16th century Turkey - Millett creates an unsettling claustrophobic tension that traps the audience within an oppressive evangelical siege using original extracts from notorious 1990s cult leaders David Koresh of Waco and Jonestown’s Jim Jones to drive it. 

Selim is the sermonising Chosen One, a creepy and cunning despot who Aleksander Laupmaa brilliantly embodies with chilling fervour, ruling his commune instilling the fear of God. His small group of followers - a lovely voiced chorus who sing three hymns into the score - are compliant, conservatively dressed and participate in trance-like numbness.

There are nicks here and there in the singing, gaps in the dramatisation and the second half could do with some trimming but the concept feels airtight and English and German text are delivered with potency.

Given the pressing demands of Mozart’s music, Belinda Dalton and April Foster acquitted themselves marvellously as the captives Costanze and Blonde. Dalton’s crisp and glassy tones rang out with confidence and freedom in Costanze’s taxing aria, “Martern aller Arten" ("Tortures of all kinds") and the scenes she shares with Laupmaa’s predatory Selim are the highlight.

Alison Lemoh as Mistress Osmin and April Foster as Blonde
Foster’s more smooth and plush sound added contrasting character as an increasingly defiant Blonde. Their boyfriends Belmonte (Stephen Carolane) and Pedrillo (Robin Czuchnowski) were less convincing with the chemistry unevenly ignited between the lovers. 

In an apt transposition of role, Selim’s torture-loving overseer, normally for bass, is given chocolatey richness by Alison Lemoh as the compound’s Mistress Osmin who paces about with an unspoken attraction for Blonde.

Musically, conductor James Penn provided engaging dynamics with tempo and fine piano accompaniment comes from Pam Christie. 

Without revealing the shocking finale, be it said that Millet’s dark approach wrests the compassion that transpires in Mozart’s generally lighthearted work. The results are captivating.

BK Opera 
Studio 1, Northcote Town Hall
Until 22nd July, 2018


Production Photos: BK Opera

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