Today is the tenth anniversary of the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, “These Are The Voyages…”, which aired on May 13, 2005. The show’s finale marked the end of Star Trek’s run on television.
We haven’t watched any of the Enterprise episodes. At the time it was being shown, television had been saturated with Star Trek series. CBS, which owns the rights to the franchise, eventually worked out that it had diluted the Star Trek brand throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, and Enterprise got the axe in 2005 after only four seasons. Star Trek: Enterprise was the fourth entry in the sci-fi franchise since The Next Generation (or TNG, if you prefer) began airing in 1987. It was also the third series to be created in a span of 10 years and was probably suffering from “franchise fatigue”.
Currently, CBS don’t have any interest in a new Star Trek series for television, the strategy for the franchise is focused on the new movies. We didn’t watch the original movies but we love the rebooted Star Trek movies, Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). Paramount hopes to have Star Trek 3 ready for takeoff in 2016, seeing how 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the late Gene Roddenberry’s original sci-fi TV show.
But at the moment we are most intrigued by a Star Trek project by Pacific Opera Project.
Pacific Opera Project (or POP) is a little opera company determined to bring opera to the masses. POP works with low budgets, limited rehearsals, and many new young artists. They update the characters, costumes and even the lyrics to catch the ear and the eye of today’s audiences.
POP boldly goes where no opera company has gone before in a Star Trek-themed production of Abduction from the Seraglio. POP puts their zany spin on Mozart’s kidnapping caper by setting it in space… the final frontier. Klingons, slave girls, and all your favorite characters from the original Star Trek series sing and dance their way through Abduction accompanied by a spectacular 27-piece orchestra conducted by POP co-founder Stephen Karr.
The production is filled with vocal fireworks featuring some of the most thrilling arias and ensembles in all of opera. The new English libretto, written by artistic director Josh Shaw who also directs the POP production, takes the action from an 18th century harem in Turkey and places it Stardate 14-20.27 on the hereto unexplored planet M113.
The plot of Abduction is simple: two women, Lt. Constanza (the exquisite soprano Shawnette Sulker, modeled after Star Trek’s Uhura) and Blondie (green bikini clad Claire Averill, modeled after Susan Oliver’s famous turn as an all-accommodating Orion slave girl) have been captured and placed in a harem by the warmongering Klingons, led by Chancellor Salim (the truly menacing Gregg Lawrence in the only non-singing role in the opera). Lawrence brings his Klingon knowledge and understanding on their mindset to the show, having performed as Col Gorak in the Star Trek – The Experience show in Las Vegas. With his overpowering glares, it’s no wonder his fellow Klingons and most of the imprisoned slave girls cower in his presence. But not everyone does…. And Klingons love a challenge!
Salim has set his sights on the shapely and intelligent Constanza, favoring her above all others in his vast harem, all beautifully dressed in the sexy possibilities of the universe by Maggie Green whose spot-on authentic costuming for the Star Trek-themed cast lifts the production out of fantasy and into reality onstage – right down to the unnecessary “red shirt” who Trekkers will immediately know is done for the minute he transports to the surface, and Klingon weapon of choice, the Batleth, incorporated into much of the ensemble choreography with great flare.
Another Klingon, Osmin (Phil Meser, expertly adding clever bits of physical humor to his singing) is after Blondie, but she, like Constanza, is in love with another and turns down his advances. Director Shaw and Conductor Karr are an incredible team and keep you laughing at the Klingons botched seduction attempts, so much so that you may not have time to read or even notice the libretto which is projected just above the proscenium arch. This is not like any opera text you have ever heard and it generated laughs from the entire audience due to the comical and overly sexual nature of Shaw’s new English libretto.
The women’s suitors arrive on the scene and attempt to free them from their captors. The new libretto is heavy on laughs and is sure to quote nearly every catch phrase and iconic line from the much-loved sci-fi series. But not to worry if you are not a Trekker and have no knowledge of the inside references and jokes placed throughout the opera. The story is complete unto itself, so don’t worry if you fail to understand the laughs from the rest of the Trekker-filled audience.
And speaking of comical, the opera begins as we meet Constanza’s suitor and ship’s Capt. James T. Belmonte, the incredible tenor Brian Cheney, who studied Capt. James T. Kirk for the original series to a tee, right down to his over-the-top male ego mannerisms. Cheney also has a star turn when he arrives to rescue his beloved, dressed as Star Trek’s Engineer Scotty, right down to his thick Scottish accent which Cheney plays for all the laughs he can muster.
And what would a Star Trek-themed show be without Spock? In fact, the final projection of the show is of Leonard Nimoy, the one-and-only original pointy-eared Vulcan who passed away earlier this year. It was fitting tribute to a man who lived long and prospered, bringing the voice of reason to the emotional humans he encountered.
Robert Norman, however, has added a bit more sensual sexuality to Mr. Pedrillo, even though Spock only chased women during his Pon-Farr mating season. Flashing the Vulcan split-fingered hand salute at every chance he gets, Pedrillo struggles to remain friendly with the Klingon Osmin to gather insider information to assist with the abduction. But he must be very careful. You see, Pedrillo is there to capture his true love who is also being pursued by the much larger and incredibly more violent Osmin who watches over her like the hawk that he is. Of course poor Pedrillo can barely keep up with the sexpot Blondie, and Averill’s attempt to seduce Norman is riotously hysterical with the poor Vulcan unsure how to react to her advances – except with his half that is definitely so human.
But can Pedrillo and Belmonte successfully abduct their women from the Klingon harem? You can no longer attend a performance of the opera to find out but Josh Shaw has kindly uploaded a recording of the entire performance to YouTube.
And yes, we do!
Live long and prosper!