An opportunity to see Mozart’s ‘Abduction’

Opera Grand Rapids brings composer’s popular singspiel to life at Forest Hills Fine Arts Center
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Opera Grand Rapids' 2016 production of Romeo and Juliet. Courtesy photo.

Mozart’s masterpiece, “Abduction from the Seraglio” is an enchanting adventure tale that follows a group of Europeans who find themselves in a Turkish harem. A rare opportunity to see the opera brought to life by Opera Grand Rapids will take place on Oct. 13 and 14 at the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center, 600 Forest Hill Ave SE. 

“This opera is less recognizable by its name, but you’ll know the music,” said Opera Grand Rapids’ Executive Director, Emilee Syrewicze. “It was featured in the incredibly popular movie Amadeus [Dir: Milos Forman (1984)], so it has experienced a resurgence in popularity.” 

The farcical and comedic “singspiel” opera was performed during Mozart’s lifetime more times than any other he composed. This type of opera, unlike traditional opera, includes both singing and spoken lines like a modern Broadway musical. 

The performance promises to transport audiences to a world of passion, intrigue, and musical brilliance that blends comedy, romance, and cultural exploration while showcasing Mozart’s genius in crafting both unforgettable music and compelling stories.

In the opera, the valiant Belmonte leads a daring rescue mission to save his beloved Konstanze. The libretto is said to have been created by marrying themes from various preexisting literary sources– most notably, a libretto by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner entitled “Belmont und Constanze” first set to music by Johann André and performed in Berlin in 1781. Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio” premiered in Vienna the following year and has been proven by history to be the more exceptional adaptation. 

In its day, there was some controversy as to whom the libretto of  “Abduction from the Seraglio ” should be attributed. Mozart was commissioned to compose the opera for the “National Singspiel,” a theater established in Vienna in 1778 by the Emperor Joseph II. Austrian playwright Gottlieb Stephanie prepared an altered version of Bretzner’s “Belmont und Constanze” and presented the libretto to Mozart as his own. Mozart was impressed enough by the material to sign on to the project (or perhaps was in need of the commission), but through the course of composing made vast changes to its plot as evidenced by a letter he wrote to his father in October of 1781:

“…the whole story is being altered – and, to tell the truth, at my own request. At the beginning of act 3 there is a charming quintet or rather finale, but I would prefer to have it at the end of act 2. In order to make this practicable, great changes must be made, in fact an entirely new plot must be introduced…” he wrote. 

Under the direction of Opera Grand Rapids’ Artistic Director, James Meena, and conducted by Maestro William Lumpkin, this production promises an unforgettable evening of opera featuring a talented cast and the Grand Rapids Symphony. The performance will be sung in German with English supertitles. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. each night.

Tickets for the performances are available for purchase through the Opera Grand Rapids box office and the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center. Visit operagr.org or fhfineartscenter.com.

 

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