The Abduction from the Seraglio (The Grange Festival)

Jonathan Lemalu (Osmin)_Paul Curievici (Pedrillo)_The Abduction from the Seraglio_The Grange Festival 2018 ©Simon Annand©Simon Annand

Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, originally called Die Entführung aus dem Serail is an opera with some speaking parts. Belmonte has come to Turkey to rescue his lover Konstanze and their friends and servants Blonde and Pedrillo who were captured at sea and are now in the seraglio of Pasha Selim with his spymaster Osmin. 

Before I start on the opera itself, this was my first time at the second annual The Grange Festival, close to Basingstoke. I decided to take the shuttle that they offer to get to the property, where a nice man is waiting there by the minibus, full of opera knowledge for a good chat. A nice 20-30min ride through the country, old churches and picture perfect cottages and then you enter Grange Park, a swirling bumpy path, as we drove in and saw the front of the house, with a lawn in front of that where men were playing croquet. You get out and walk around the building and you see the full splendour of the property. Full of  white marquees, people dressed to the nines, a few champagne bars. It does look absolutely spectacular. A bit imposing when you first arrive as it is just so grand, but before the first Act had started I was enjoying it and getting in to the swing of things, the staff are very helpful and kind.

On to the opera! A new production from Opera director extraordinaire John Copley, I was really impressed with the sets, simply done, but exquisite detail and a feeling of grandeur.  It opens with a beautiful house entrance way on one side in an Eastern style, with a garden type pillar on the right, looking very effective, in the centre rear of the stage is a river with the odd boat coming across the stage as the opera progresses.

What I was most worried about with this production was the translation. Translating opera is a very tricky business, if the words don’t match the music as originally intended it stands out and doesn’t work. My fears were luckily unnecessary, David Parry has done a fantastic job, translating both the singing and the spoken word parts to make it relevant, at times hilarious and mostly fitting the music perfectly. A great job, as do Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud.

For me, the star of the show was Kiwi Jonathan Lemalu as Osmin who was both the comic relief which he revelled in, but also had a truly great voice which he has the measure of and made it go right to its limits, need to see him in this country a lot more! Ed Lyon as Belmonte and Paul Curievici as Pedrillo both had impressive vocal skills and acting ability. Kiandra Howarth as Konstanze had a good voice, however she went a bit too far with the high notes which unfortunately didn’t work well in this venue. Daisy Brown as Blonde had a great range and her acting was also very good.

Overall The Abduction from the Seraglio is perfect for this venue, it’s also Barber of Seville level comedy, but the tone is slightly off, going from slapstick humour to daring someone to torture them, but I really enjoyed it. There is a strong feminist message along with the power of friendship and being the better person, I would go back and see it again, and again, especially with Lemalu as Osmin who is just fantastic. The venue itself at The Grange works very well bringing it all together and adds an extra element to the pleasure of it, well worth a visit.

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