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Mercyhurst stages ‘The Abduction from the Seraglio’ opera - July 31, 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

James Bobick & Elizabeth Klucher

The D’Angelo Opera Theater Summer Intensive at Mercyhurst University will present its first opera, a fully staged presentation of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, on Aug. 16.

Set in 16th century Turkey, the opera recounts the efforts of Belmonte, a Spanish nobleman, to rescue the woman he loves, Constanze, who has been captured by pirates and taken to the seraglio (harem) of Pasha Selim.

D’Angelo Opera Theatre artistic director Louisa Jonason says the opera is seldom produced, but she was able to schedule it because she has two talented coloratura sopranos to play Constanze and her maid, Blonchen. Elizabeth Klucher and Victoria McIlvain, who will be seniors at Mercyhurst this fall, appeared as geishas in the spring production of Madama Butterfly, but this will be the first major role for both of them. Their arias are particularly difficult, Jonason said, including lots of runs, leaps and high notes.

Klucher and McIlvain have already been cast as well to alternate in the role of The Queen of the Night when the D’Angelo Opera Theater presents Mozart’s final opera, The Magic Flute, in spring 2016.

Both Seraglio and The Magic Flute are written in the German singspiel style, featuring dialogue that is not sung but spoken.

James Bobick, an adjunct professor of opera at Mercyhurst and the stage director for Seraglio, describes singspiel as resembling musical theater, with spoken dialogue that advances the plot interspersed with arias that express the characters’ emotions. Both the music and the dialogue will be performed in English.

Bobick, a professional opera singer, has sung all over the world for the past 25 years in productions such as The Barber of Seville, La Bohème and Rigoletto. For the past two and a half years, he has pursued his career from a base in Erie, where his wife, Melissa, is on the dance faculty at Mercyhurst.

For this production, though, the renowned baritone won’t sing. He’ll play the spoken role of the Pasha Selim.

The Abduction from the Seraglio, despite the dramatic-sounding plot, is a rollicking comedy, with much of the slapstick provided by Osmin, Pasha Selim’s inept henchman. Luke Ballantyne, a native of Zimbabwe who’ll be a junior at

Mercyhurst, plays the role, one of the greatest (and lowest) roles ever composed for a bass singer.

Also in the cast are tenors Patrick Philip Becker, a Mercyhurst graduate, and Edward Graybill.

Andrew Ferguson is the opera’s technical director.

The Abduction from the Seraglio will be performed only once, on Sunday, Aug. 16, at 2 p.m. in Mercyhurst’s Walker Recital Hall (located in the Hirt Academic Center).

Tickets are $12.50 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students and can be purchased at the Mercyhurst box office in the lobby of the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center. Call 814-824-3000.