Austrian opera recast in ominous 1940s tones

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music will combine with 1940s film noir in Skylight Opera Theatre's presentation of "The Abduction from the Seraglio."

Several changes were made to the opera in bringing it to Skylight's stage. The opera was translated into English, as all Skylight operas are, according to Cara McMullin, Skylight Opera Theatre marketing manager. The majority of the opera will be spoken with songs interspersed.

After translation, the dialogue was updated to appeal to a modern audience and the length of the opera was trimmed to fit Skylight's typical two-hour show, McMullin said.

But language and length weren't the only changes.

Director Jon Kretzu envisioned "The Abduction from the Seraglio" in a completely different setting than the traditional early 1700s. Inspired by the classic 1940s films "Casablanca" and "Notorious," Kretzu relocated the opera to 1944, changing scenes and costumes, McMullin said.

"The director's vision for the show is it is taking place instead of in the normal Turkey, it is in 1940s Hollywood glamour," said Skylight Costume Designer Stacey Galloway.

Costumes fit the era, with men wearing dark colored double-breasted suits, and women in day dresses, traveling suits and glamorous evening gowns, Galloway said.

"The costumes are the one design element that truly grounds the show in the time period," she said.

To further place the opera, Galloway said most of the scenes are in grays and muted tones, giving it the feel of a black-and-white film.

The atmosphere, costumes and colors all work to create the 1940s vibe Kretzu wanted and hopes the audience will enjoy.

The opera "really captures the feeling of the time period, the glamour of it all, the moody lighting and the intrigue that is going on in all the scenes," Galloway said.

McMullin said "The Abduction from the Seraglio" looks more like a theater production than a traditional opera, with stationary characters singing.

"Our productions are always more theatrical," McMullin said. "They are a lot more like theater with singing than just singing-based."

"The Abduction from the Seraglio" is a comic and tangled love triangle. McMullin said Constanza is in love with Belmonte. Pasha Selim is in love with Constanza and is holding her captive with the hopes that she might one day love him. When Belmonte attempts to rescue her, the plot thickens.

As with other Skylight productions, according to McMullin, the cast hails from many different places. Kathy Pyeatt, who grew up in Green Bay and is now living in Fredonia, plays Constanza. David Gagnon, who plays Belmonte, also grew up in Green Bay but currently lives and works in New York City. Milwaukee-native Michael Di Padova, who plays the villainous Pasha Selim, is making his Skylight debut, McMullin said.

"The Abduction from the Seraglio" begins Friday and runs through Oct. 10 at the Skylight Opera Theatre, 158 N. Broadway. Ticket prices vary depending on the day of the show. More information is available by calling 291-7815.