|Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart KV1 384|
Die Entfuehrung aus dem SerailOpera 1781. Time: 130'00.
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Die Entführung aus dem Serail (K. 384; The Abduction from the Seraglio; also known as Il Seraglio) is an opera Singspiel in three acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The German libretto is by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner with adaptations by Gottlieb Stephanie. The plot concerns the attempt of the hero Belmonte, assisted by his servant Pedrillo, to rescue his beloved Konstanze from the seraglio of the Pasha Selim.
The origin of the opera
The company that first sponsored the opera was the Nationalsingspiel ("national Singspiel"), a pet project (1778–1783) of the Austrian emperor Joseph II. The Emperor had set up the company to perform works in the German language (Italian opera was already popular in Vienna). This project was ultimately given up as a failure, but along the way it produced a number of successes, mostly a series of translated works. Mozart's opera emerged as its outstanding original success.
The inspector of the Nationalsingspiel was Gottlieb Stephanie. When the 25-year-old Mozart arrived in Vienna in 1781, seeking professional opportunity, one of the first tasks to which he addressed himself was to become acquainted with Stephanie and lobby him for an opera commission. To this end, he brought a copy of his earlier opera Zaide and showed it to Stephanie, who was duly impressed. Mozart also made a strong impression on the manager of the theater, Count Franz Xaver Rosenberg-Orsini, when in the home of Mozart's friend and patroness Maria Wilhelmine Thun the Count heard him play excerpts from his opera Idomeneo, premiered with great success the previous year in Munich. With this backing, it was agreed that Stephanie would find appropriate material and prepare a libretto for Mozart. Stephanie complied by first pirating and then altering an earlier work by Bretzner, who later complained loudly and publicly about the theft.
Mozart received the libretto from Stephanie on 29 July 1781. He had had few opportunities to compose professionally during the summer and he set to work on the libretto at a very rapid pace, finishing three major numbers in just two days. A letter to his father Leopold indicates he was very excited about the prospect of having his opera performed in Vienna, and worked enthusiastically on his project.
At first Mozart thought he needed to finish his opera in only two months, because tentative plans were made to perform it at the September visit of the Russian Grand Duke Paul (son of Catherine the Great and heir to the Russian throne). However, it was ultimately decided to perform operas by Gluck instead, giving Mozart more time.
It was around this time that Mozart articulated his views about the role of the composer and the librettist in the preparation of an opera. He wrote to his father (13 October 1781):
It would seem that something along these lines did happen—that is, Mozart decided to play a major role in the shaping of the libretto, insisting that Stephanie make changes for dramatic and musical effect. On 26 September Mozart wrote:
Mozart was evidently quite pleased to have in Stephanie a librettist who would listen to him. The September 26 letter also says:
The character of the opera
Die Entführung aus dem Serail is in the genre of "Singspiel", meaning that much of the action is carried forward by spoken dialogue, thus the music lacks recitatives and consists entirely of set numbers.
The work is lighthearted and frequently comic, with little deep character exploration or darker feelings found in Mozart's later operas. Along with other contemporary works, such as Giovanni Paolo Marana's Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy and Montesquieu's Persian Letters, the opera was inspired by a contemporary interest in the perceived "exotic" culture of the Ottoman Empire, a nation which had only recently ceased to be a military threat to the Austrian Empire. Mozart's opera includes a Westernized version of Turkish music, based very loosely on the Turkish Janissary band music that he had employed in earlier work. (See Turkish music (style)). Like most comedies of the time, it incorporates many elements of plot and characterization established by the popular Commedia dell'arte.
Certain aspects of the opera conform to an eighteenth century European view of orientalism. The Pasha's titular harem, for example, reprised themes of sexual libertinage. And the comically sinister overseer, Osmin, is a send-up of earlier stereotypes of Turkish despotism. However, the opera also defies the stereotyped expectations of a despotic Turkish culture, since its climax hinges around a selfless act of forgiveness on the part of the Pasha.
The music includes some of the composer's most spectacular and difficult arias. Osmin's Act 3 aria "O, wie will ich triumphieren" includes characteristic 18th century coloratura passage work, and twice goes down to a low D (D2), one of the lowest notes demanded of any voice in opera. Perhaps the most famous aria in the opera is the long and elaborate "Martern aller Arten" ("Tortures of all kinds") for Konstanze, an outstanding challenge for sopranos. Konstanze sings in a kind of sinfonia concertante with four solo players from the orchestra; the strikingly long orchestral introduction, without stage action, also poses problems for stage directors.
The virtuosity of these roles is perhaps attributable to the fact that when he took up the task of composing the opera, Mozart already knew the outstanding reputations of the singers for whom he was writing, and he tailored the arias to their strengths. The first Osmin was Ludwig Fischer, a bass noted for his wide range and skill in leaping over large intervals with ease. Similarly, Mozart wrote of the first Konstanze, Catarina Cavalieri, "I have sacrificed Konstanze's aria a little to the flexible throat of Mlle. Cavalieri."
The opera was a huge success. The first two performances brought in the large sum of 1200 florins, three times what Mozart's salary had been for his old job in Salzburg. The work was repeatedly performed in Vienna during Mozart's lifetime, and throughout German-speaking Europe. In 1787, Goethe wrote (concerning his own efforts as a librettist):
Although the opera greatly raised Mozart's standing with the public as a composer, it did not make him rich: he was paid a flat fee of 100 Imperial ducats (about 450 florins) for his work, and made no profits from the many subsequent performances.
The opera continues to be frequently performed today, and there are many recordings.
The "too many notes" tale
The complexity of Mozart's work, noted early on by Goethe, also plays a role in a well-known tale about the opera. In the version from Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes, the story goes like this:
The anecdote, which is often repeated, may have unfairly given the Emperor a bad reputation, concerning both his own musical abilities and his appreciation and support of Mozart. For defense of Joseph from such criticisms, see Beales (2006). Branscombe (2006) mitigates the story's implications with a different translation of the ambiguous German word "gewaltig", rendering it as "very many" rather than "too many".
The singers perform with a Classical-era orchestra, augmented with the instruments needed for "Turkish" music: bass drum, cymbals, triangle, and piccolo. Aside from these, the orchestra consists of pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, a set of two timpani, and strings. The aria, "Sorrow has become my lot", is also augmented by basset horn.
Belmonte enters, looking for his betrothed, Konstanze, who with her English servant Blonde has fallen into the hands of pirates and been sold to the Pasha Selim (Aria: "Here shall I see you, Konstanze, you my hope.") Osmin, the Pasha's bad-tempered servant, comes to pluck figs in the garden and completely ignores Belmonte's questions (Aria: "Who a love has found.") Belmonte tries to obtain news of his servant, Pedrillo, who has been captured with the women and is serving as a servant in the Pasha's palace. Osmin replies with insults and abuse. (Duet: "Confounded be you and your song.") Belmonte leaves in disgust. Pedrillo enters and Osmin rages at him, vowing to get him tortured and killed in many different ways. (Aria: "Such ragamuffins.") Osmin leaves and Belmonte enters and happily reunites with Pedrillo. Together they resolve to rescue Konstanze and Pedrillo's fiancee, Blonde, who is Konstanze's servant. (Aria: "Konstanze, Konstanze, to see thee again").
Accompanied by a chorus of Janissaries ("Sing to the great Pasha") the Pasha Selim appears with Konstanze, for whose love he strives in vain. (Aria of Konstanze: "O forgive! Oh, I loved") Pedrillo tricks the Pasha into hiring Belmonte as an architect. When Belmonte and Pedrillo try to enter the palace, Osmin bars their way, but they hurry past him anyway. (Terzett: "March! March! March!")
Blonde repulses the rough lovemaking attempts of Osmin (Aria: "By tenderness and flattery."), and threatens to scratch out his eyes. After a duet ("I'm going, but I warn you...."), Osmin departs. Konstanze greets Blonde in distress (Aria: "Sorrow has become my lot"), informing her that Selim demands her love and threatens to use force. (Aria: "This also will I bear.")
When she has gone, Pedrillo comes to Blonde, who is his sweetheart, and informs her that Belmonte has come and is planning to rescue them. Blonde is filled with joy. (Aria: "What happiness, what delight.") Pedrillo invites Osmin to drink, hoping that he will become intoxicated. (Duet: "Vivat Bacchus!") When Osmin has drunk himself into a stupor, the two couples reunite. (Quartet, Belmonte, Konstanze, Pedrillo, Blonde: "Oh, Belmonte, oh my life.") Belmonte and Pedrillo both question anxiously whether their respective fiancees have remained faithful during their forced separation; to their delight the women respond with indignation and dismay. They forgive the offensive questions and the curtain falls.
Belmonte and Pedrillo come to the garden with ladders. (Aria, Belmonte: "When the tears of joy do fall"; Romanze, Pedrillo: "Captive in the land of the Moors.") However, they and the women are caught by Osmin, who rouses the castle (Aria: "Ho, how I will rejoice when they lead you to the gallows"). Belmonte pleads for their lives and tells Selim Pasha that his father is a Spanish Grandee and Governor of Oran, named Lostados, who will pay a generous ransom. Unfortunately, Pasha Selim and Lostados are long-standing enemies. The Pasha rejoices in the opportunity to kill his enemy's son. He leaves Belmonte and Konstanze to bid each other a last farewell (Duet: "Oh what a fate, oh soul's misery."), but when he returns, he decides he can make a better point against Lostados by releasing Belmonte and his friends. All are set at liberty — much to the dismay of Osmin, who would prefer to see them all brutally executed. (Finale: "Never will I thy kindness forget.")
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Die_Entf%C3%BChrung_aus_dem_Serail". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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