Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio” was staged at the Nizhny Novgorod Opera and Ballet Theater

Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio” was staged at the Nizhny Novgorod Opera and Ballet Theater


The tandem of director Ekaterina Odegova and set designer Etel Ioshpa, already known for several nice productions at the Moscow New Opera, successfully debuted outside of their alma mater – at the Nizhny Novgorod Opera and Ballet Theater named after Pushkin. The theater’s chief conductor Dmitry Sinkovsky was responsible for the musical quality. Attended the premiere shows Ekaterina Biryukova.

“The Abduction from the Seraglio” is Mozart’s masterpiece, which was well received by the public from its very appearance (1782): at that time even the future Russian Emperor Paul I and his wife saw it in Vienna. But its Russian production history is not rich. “Seraglio” belongs to the Singspiel genre, the musical numbers are interspersed with very lengthy spoken dialogues, suggesting a good command of the German language on both sides of the ramp and extraordinary dramatic abilities on at least one side. In Nizhny Novgorod they did not strive to overcome these peaks; the dialogues were radically reduced, the need for comedy was reduced to a minimum, although sometimes the audience giggles. But now it’s not jokes that rule the stage, but serious experiences, doubts, omissions, sometimes sadness and disappointment. And in the orchestra there are precise baroque mood swings, improvisations of the Hammerklavier (electronic), natural horns and trumpets (real).

The rapidly transforming Nizhny Novgorod theater, which has recently acquired maestro Sinkovsky, the young La Voce Strumentale orchestra recruited throughout the country and even abroad, the support of the governor and serious ambitions – a new point of attraction that has arisen at a seemingly inappropriate time for this . As usual, the construction of a new theater building is already looming in the future. In the meantime, the troupe, not forgetting the old building, is mastering the “Warehouses on Strelka” – a marvelous modern concert and exhibition venue opened in honor of the recent 800th anniversary of Nizhny Novgorod on the famous cape where the Volga and Oka merge. “Seraglio” is going right there.

During the performance, the water is not visible – the panoramic window overlooking the river and the Kremlin on the other bank is obscured by the scenery. But the feeling of some kind of island happiness, escape and magic is very present. The intimacy and isolation from the rest of the world is added by the small size of the hall, where there is no pit or wings, the orchestra sits in the place of the removed stalls. The story of the rescue of European captives from the harem of the Turkish Pasha Selim, reflecting the fashion for orientalism during the wars of the Habsburgs with the Ottoman Empire, is now usually interpreted from the point of view of anti-colonial discourse. But the directors are not interested in him. Their performance is a female view of the nature of love, sexuality, fidelity, jealousy, freedom, already familiar from their previous works, full of halftones (here one cannot fail to mention lighting designer Stas Svistunovich).

There is no choir in the play, it simply won’t fit here; a couple of choral fragments are arranged for orchestra and soloists. On stage for three hours in the same scenery, only five characters sort out the relationships in a very varied and interesting way – Constanza with her beloved Belmonte, her maid Blonda with her Pedrillo and Osmin, a stranger to them. The mysterious owner of these places, Pasha Selim, for whom Mozart wrote a spoken role, is not in the play, there is only his voice with several short lines. Blonda and Osmin clearly like each other, but they don’t really understand how to communicate with each other. Constanza listens to an invisible voice and doesn’t know what she wants. Boys are jealous, girls take offense at them for this. Their quartet is the psychological culmination of the performance. As a result, the status quo seems to be restored, the girls are pulled into appropriate corsets, the four of them leave this strange and certainly dangerous place, holding hands, but a residue still remains.

The scene itself is a pink and green Garden of Eden, completely unashamed of its Pre-Raphaelite beauty. A curvy, long-legged snake, dark red apples, butterflies, fish, grapes and the resulting wine are all included. In general, the love for art history comes through from all the cracks. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Handel’s sorceress Alcina and much more loom somewhere behind the scenes every now and then. But nothing compares to the appearance of the unicorn during Constanza’s anguished aria. It is clear that it was just Osmin who put on the fake head of a white horse with a horn, which in the end remains in the girl’s hands. But while she believes in her illusion, the combination of the Virgin with the unicorn and Mozart’s music is completely mesmerizing.

This number is a triumph for Nadezhda Pavlova, the famous Perm Violetta from Bob Wilson’s production (those were the days!), and now a soloist of the Nizhny Novgorod Opera. She wins over audiences not so much with coloraturas as with melting pianissimos with a strong baroque aroma. Her cast partners: another famous miracle of Perm production – Sergei Godin in the role of Belmonte, the charismatic Harry Agadzhanyan in the role of Osmin and very young voices – Galina Kruch (Blonda) and Vladimir Kuklev (Pedrillo). In the second cast, a couple of gentlemen are also represented by soloists of higher status – these are Dilyara Idrisova and Boris Stepanov. A couple of servants – Irina Kotova and Dmitry Belyansky, in the role of Osmin – Maxim Orlov. There are no guests in the casting; all the performers, even the invisible voice of Selim with a luxurious Austrian pronunciation, are recent acquisitions of the local opera troupe. The Nizhny Novgorod Opera catches not only unicorns.


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