Utah Opera serves 'sweet' ending to season with Mozart's 'Abduction from the Seraglio'

Published: Saturday, May 3 2014 4:00 p.m. MDT

Andrew Stenson as Belmonte and Celena Shafer as Konstanze rehearse "The Abduction from the Seraglio" at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

At the close of its 2013-14 season, Utah Opera will be serving something a little sweeter: Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” which will run May 10-18 at the Capitol Theatre.

“I often describe the crafting of a season very similarly to crafting a menu,” said Christopher McBeth, Utah Opera’s artistic director. “And so here we’ve had this wonderful, rich, hearty, in some cases very filling, meal of opera this season, and this is the dessert, the dolce in Italian, the sweet at the end.”

The season’s other three mainstage operas were fairly serious, he said, and Utah Opera hasn’t staged “The Abduction from the Seraglio” for at least 15 years.

“So of the Mozart operas, this was one that was sort of ‘due’ for a return to the Capitol Theatre stage,” he said. “And given the story, the happy ending, the comic characters in this, this Mozart was perfect for this particular season.”

In “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” Konstanze, the betrothed of the hero, Belmonte, has been abducted by pirates along with her handmaiden Blonde and Belmonte’s servant Pedrillo. Belmonte goes to the rescue, only to find the three have been sold to the powerful Pasha Selim. Konstanze, who doesn’t know whether Belmonte survived the pirate attack, has become the pasha’s favorite but rejects his advances.

Utah native and soprano Celena Shafer will perform as Konstanze.

“(Konstanze) kind of wavers a little bit because here’s this other man that’s very nice,” Shafer said. “This could be her life now. She might not ever be rescued. So should she go ahead and give in to this pasha … or should she stay true to Belmonte, who she made this vow to, and that she truly loved?”

Tenor Andrew Stenson, who is from Minnesota and has previously performed with the Metropolitan Opera, will make his Utah Opera debut as Belmonte.

“Belmonte comes to the situation, he thinks that he’s going to find Konstanze, he’s going to rescue her, everything’s going to be OK,” Stenson said. “And then he realizes that she’s in the captivity of the pasha, and that the pasha’s taking quite a liking to her, and that maybe things aren’t going to be as ‘fairy tale’ as he thought they would.”

McBeth will make his Utah Opera debut as Pasha Selim.

“I, after 20 years not being involved in performing, have plopped myself in the middle of a highly experienced, talented and respected group of artists,” he said. “It’s anxiety-producing. It’s also inspiring beyond belief. I get the best seat in the house when these amazing singers are singing some of the most difficult music ever written.”

It was at the suggestion of many others, including those within Utah Opera, agents for some of the singers and people within the opera industry, that McBeth decided to take on the role.

“It’s great because he’s tall, he’s got a really deep voice, and so he already has this incredibly imposing presence that lends itself to the character so well,” Stenson said.

Directing the production in its return to Utah Opera is Chas Rader-Shieber, who previously directed a co-production of “The Abduction of the Seraglio” by Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera in 2009.

“If you like roller coasters, this is a really good opera to go to. Just strap yourself in for the ride,” he said. “The range of musical styles matches the emotional range of the story … from literally one minute to the next, it can turn 180 degrees.”

“Celena Shafer and Andrew Stenson sing some of the most incredible arias Mozart ever wrote,” said conductor Gary Thor Wedow. “I mean, they’re so challenging vocally, but also they’re so interesting psychologically and so deep emotionally. So it’s this kind of whiplash feeling.”

More than 40 new costumes have been made for this production by the Utah Opera costume department under the direction of designer Jacob Climer.

The opera runs 2 hours and 45 minutes with two intermissions, and the performances are scheduled for May 10, 12, 14 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. and May 18 at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $18 to $95; tickets are available for purchase at 801-355-2787, utahopera.org and the Capitol Theatre ticket office at 500 W. 200 South. Ticket prices increase by $5 when purchased on the day of the performance.

For more information, visit utahopera.org.

Email: rbrutsch@deseretnews.com

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