Abduction should be fast and funny. But maintaining the breezy tempo is a problem, because the music keeps stopping. And unfortunately the dialogue is never up to Mozart’s level. (How could it?) It is a lesson in the importance of continuo and recitative, which seem silly extras until they’re absent.
Updating the setting from Imaginary Ottoman Empire to the Orient Express circa the Jazz Age was a promising concept. But they never pulled it off. The principles were not clever clowns, so most of the physical humor fell flat.
The exception was So Young Park as the confidante/servant. She was not only on top of Mozart’s exacting vocal music, but also elegantly delivered the slapstick shenanigans devised by director James Robinson. She even managed to lure Morris Robinson (the bad guy Osmin stuck on her) into superior clowning. They made the show. Allen Moyer’s cutaway railroad cars were cute from the Loge, but you probably had to be in the Orchestra section to get the full effect.
Abduction is a tough piece to stage, but the music is worth it. Mozart presents the emotions of his characters with complete conviction. Konstanze’s “Welcher Wechsel herrscht...Traurigkeit ward mir zum Loose” is the quintessence of despair. The music embodies this despair, with complete sympathy.
But at the same time, the subtlety is so exacting, that the music, as it evolves, presents the despair not as a single state, but as a progression of finely discriminated, varied states. It is not Despair, but a specific story of the progress of a specific despair—this woman’s experience, in this place, for this period of time. Konstanze’s situation is not a single, fixed thing. It touches self-pity, then regret, then defiance, then flies off in heroic postures, … and so on.
This mutability constitutes, for Mozart, hope. The music does not pretend despair is unreal, but suggests, tactfully, that it is temporary.
Love raptures and despair are of course still in vogue—no translation necessary. But Mozart also gives Kontanze and Belmonte "Welch ein Geschick! O Qual der Seele"—an opportunity to proclaim that their love is stronger than death. This is not such a popular idea. Mozart treats it with sympathy, but also arranges matters so that this bravado is not put to the test.