Seraglio reviews

THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO, Surrey Opera at The Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon, Friday 10th June, 2005

An abridged review taken from The Operatalent website

The stage at the Ashcroft didn’t seem to let the singing voices through very well unless the performers were near to the front of the stage. Pasha Selim (William Brand, in the non-singing role) had an excellent speaking voice that carried well and a commanding stage presence. Konstanze (Anya Szreter) sang beautifully although rather quietly: “Tortures Unabating” with runs up to and from top Cs and the opening aria (“But the happy days were fleeting”) also technically difficult including top Ds showed off a fine command of her voice, although she could do with using more chest.

Belmonte (Nicholas Mulroy) gave a solid performance but found it difficult to move while singing; nevertheless, the voice was well in tune and with a lovely top G that leads to the end of the phrase in his opening aria. Osmin (Oliver Hunt) had a demanding role with much of the humour to bring out of the production and a vocal part that encompasses more than two octaves, the very bottom register unfortunately hardly audible in this theatre.

Pedrillo (Nathan Vale) gave a humorous performance with great acting and facial gesture. For me, Blonde (Helen Massey) stole the evening with flirtatious acting, sparkling voice and stage presence.

The Surrey Opera Chorus had little to do, as this opera calls for only two choruses. The acting was excellent and the singing enthusiastic and vigorous.

The set was made up of some startling looking trees. The performance was accompanied by a small orchestra, conducted by the able Jonathan Butcher. Although rhythmically fine, the intonation from the string players was not perfect. The solo quartet section was fine and the pizziccato accompaniment to Pedrillo’s romance came over very effectively, despite a noticeable lack of bass register. The noisy triangle, as called for, gave the subtle Turkish qualities. The horns were occasionally behind. The accompaniment on the whole did not feel inspiring.

The audience for the Friday evening, low in numbers, heartily enjoyed the humour and the acting. Everyone clearly appeared to be enthralled by the performance.


Howard Thomas in the Croydon Advertiser, 26 June 2005

The Abduction from the Seraglio, Surrey Opera at The Fairfield Hall, Croydon

Mozart’s Abduction is an amusing pastime but in the final analysis is a flimsy tale wrapped in mostly-beautiful, always pleasant music. Perhaps that could be said for “Cosi” and, for that matter, many other operas, but it’s hard not to go through the doors wanting something like “The Magic Flute”.

Surrey Opera made it an entertaining evening though. Musical director Jonathan Butcher, as always, ensured the highest possible musical quality, with a good band of players of minimal but carefully selected numbers.

In Friday evening’s small cast, the tenor Nathan Vale, as Pedrillo, was a standout from an already good line-up. His vocal flexibility, with impeccable diction and intonation, commanded the audience’s attention constantly.

The two abducted ladies were on good form. Anya (Constanze) Szreter’s notes were clear as a bell, not the least in coloratura passages admirably handled. Her diction, however, often made irrelevant the fact that the opera was being sung in English. For that matter, the text itself was sometimes a hindrance, belonging more to a far later time - than to 1781, or to its musical or geographical trappings. Fans of this trend towards stylistic anachronisms won’t have minded that but it’s not a matter over which a discerning listener can sit on the fence.

Willam (Pasha Selim) Brand’s air of authority helped greatly with the credibility factor. The ultra-brightness of Helen (Blonde) Massey’s voice was exciting but relentless in all dramatic moods. Neverthless, as with all the principals, her intonation was excellent.

Oliver (Osmin) Hunt was a joy, having a good comedic sense.

String tone varied from thin to - once warmed up - quite ravishing, especially enjoyable as guitars in the pizzicato aria. Mozart wouldn’t be himself without beautiful woodwind playing and here he was also well served.

The economical sets were attractively lit and served their purpose well, if the four trees did look incongruously like giant asparagus.