The In Series specializes in streamlined opera productions, re-imagined in English and often in new settings. Its latest production, ably directed by Tom Mallan, transfers most of the music of Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio” to the American Wild West, in a new English adaptation by Bari Biern that opened at Source Theatre on Sunday night.
Much ink has been spilled about directorial meddling with the story lines of operas. Purists demand fidelity to librettist and composer, while some directors take liberties to update or re-contextualize older works. Another way to approach the matter is through the less-understood historical phenomenon of the opera parody, in which works were satirized and mixed with popular tunes. Mozart’s “Abduction,” hardly a grand work for the ages, lends itself easily to the process.
Osmin, the harem guard with anger-management problems, is the best adapted, as an ill-tempered Black Bart overseeing the saloon and whorehouse of Judge Roy Bean, largely thanks to the broad Texas drawl and booming low notes of bass Jeffrey Tarr. Soprano Heather Bingham’s Constanze, here British actress Lillie Langtry, was at her best in the showpiece “Martern aller Arten,” happily shortened, and matched by the pleasing soubrette voice of CarrieAnne Winter as her maid with the more-or-less Cockney accent. Tenor Joseph Haughton was painfully earnest and a little shouty as Belmont, the Englishman who rescues Lillie from the judge, who has kidnapped her, with tenor Nephi Sanchez as his foppish valet.
The rest of Mozart’s orchestration is approximated with mixed results — under the patient musical direction of Stanley Thurston — by a string quartet and a lone reed player on flute, clarinet and a lot of alto saxophone, which was strikingly pretty.
Downey is a freelance writer.