Beam Me Up, Amadeus!

By Amin El Gamal

Would Mozart have been a Trekkie or a Stars War fan?

We may never know, but that hasn’t stopped Pacific Opera Project (POP) from boldly going where no opera company has gone before. On September 3, their uproarious Star Trek inspired adaptation of Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio takes place at the Ford. 

With operatic iterations of Captain Kirk, Spock and Klingons galore, hilarity will certainly ensue. “We like to see it as a party where an opera happens to be taking place,” said POP artistic director and cofounder Josh Shaw.

Scene from POP's Abduction of Seraglio
Lt. Constanza, Cpt. Belmont and Klingon army

But despite the festive atmosphere and raucous parody, POP takes the integrity of the music very seriously. “You’ll be hearing some of the best young singers from LA and beyond,” said Josh, who also penned the production’s translation of the opera from the original German.

One of those voices is celebrated tenor and Trekkie Brian Cheney who plays Captain James T. Belmonte (aka Captain Kirk). “[We] take these zany characters and juxtapose them with the incredibly difficult music of Mozart,” Brain said. “It’s the perfect combination of the ridiculous and the sublime.”

Brian Cheney as Capt. Belmonte and Robert Norman as Mr. Pedrillo
Brian Cheney as Captain James T. Belmonte with Robert Norman as Mr. Pedrillo.

Walking this balance of preserving the music and refreshing it for contemporary audiences is central to POP’s mission. “[The show] is certainly not the snobbish, quasi-religious event some people have made opera out to be,” said POP music director and cofounder Stephen Karr. Giving the performers even more room to play - Abduction is a singspiel opera, which means it has spoken dialogue in addition to songs, not unlike the style of early Broadway musicals. 

But how did this (as Spock would say) “highly illogical” mashup come to be?

Josh first became familiar with Abduction as a singer – he’s performed it twice - and though he loved the music, he always found the English translations “dated and unfunny.” So he decided to write one himself.

But even if the idea of opera makes you squeamish or you can’t tell a Vulcan from a Klingon, Josh says the show has something for everyone – from hardcore Trekkies to those just looking for a good laugh. “If you were ever to take a chance on opera, this would be the show to do it.”

Pacific Opera Project’s Abduction from the Seraglio takes place at the Ford on Saturday, September 3 at 8:00 p.m. 

And, watch the Performer's Journey video below to see Josh and a couple of Aduction cast members in action.