An earlier Houston Grand Opera production of The Abduction from the Seraglio.
An earlier Houston Grand Opera production of The Abduction from the Seraglio.
Photo by George Hixson

HGO Puts Singers on a Train for Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio

After a series of serious roles, Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova was more than happy about the chance to take on a three-act comedy by Mozart with the Houston Grand Opera.

"It's a comedy finally," says Shagimuratova, who sings the role of Konstanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio. "In Lucia [di Lammermoor], [La] Traviata, all my girls are dying in there. Now it's finally not."

Shagimuratova, an HGO Studio alumna who is in demand all over the globe these days and admits to being very picky in what productions she accepts anymore, says: “It’s one of the dream roles. It's a very challenging role technically and vocally."

Case in point: In the second act, she does two back-to-back arias, singing for 17 nonstop minutes before taking a break. This is the third time she's taken this on; her first was at the New York Met.

Abduction is the story of a woman captured by pirates and awaiting rescue by her fiancé. In this version, resettled in the Orient Express railcars of the 1920s from Mozart's 1782 original, Shagimuratova is the Spanish noblewoman who is being held by Pasha Selim (Christopher Purves) while her lover Belmonte (Lawrence Brownlee) makes his way to her. She is accompanied in her captivity by her English servant Blonde (Uliana Alexyuk) and her husband’s servant Pedrillo (Chris Bozeka).

Shagimuratova says this production is especially funny. "Everything is happening on the train. The train is moving or stopping." Mozart is a special favorite of hers and her first signature role was as Queen of the Night, which she plans to retire from doing in the next year at the Salzburg Festival — the same place she first performed that role in The Magic Flute.

Abduction makes the most of its costumes and wigs (complete with spit curls for the women), Shagimuratova says. In a highly unusual move for opera, she adds, “We’re smoking [vaping] onstage.

"It is a fantastic role, and thank God she's not getting crazy at the end like Lucia."

Performances are scheduled for April 28 through May 12 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturday and Wednesday, and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Wortham Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. Sung in German with English projections. $15-$325.

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