The Abduction from the Seraglio, Opera by W. A. Mozart
When the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Joseph II founded the National Singspiel, a special endeavour to promote operas in the German language, he could not have asked for a better pioneering work than The Abduction from the Seraglio by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The former Wunderkind, already 25 years old, was making his way to Vienna and looking for work in the imperial capital. An auspicious meeting with Gottlieb Stephanie, the National Singspiel’s chief inspector, landed Mozart the commission, with Stephanie supplying the opera’s libretto. After months of intense creative collaboration and discussion, The Abduction from the Seraglio had its premiere on 16 July 1782 at the famed Burgtheater in Vienna. Since then, the opera has been an audience favourite. The production at the Wiener Staatsoper lets Mozart’s first big Viennese success return home.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, as the opera’s original German title goes, presents the love story between Belmonte, a Spanish aristocrat, and Konstanze, his betrothed who is captured by pirates and sold into the harem of Bassa Selim, a Turkish pasha. With the help of his faithful servants Pedrillo and Blonde and against the machinations of Osmin, the rude righthand man of the Pasha, Belmonte manages to find Konstanze. However, getting out of the seraglio is much harder than breaking in, and the lovers soon find themselves at the mercy of Bassa Selim. Could the pair’s true love melt the Oriental ruler’s heart?
The Abduction from the Seraglio shines with many of Mozart’s trademark musical qualities. The overture grabs you from the first lively notes, and the arias and duets are well-developed and inventive. The opera’s orchestration is modern and exotic, including some Turkish and Eastern instruments such as the bass drum, various cymbals and other percussion, and the flageolet. Unlike Mozart’s later operas, The Abduction from the Seraglio features a clearer separation between music and text, and extensive spoken passages play a central narrative role. The Vienna State Opera hosts an exciting revival of this milestone in the career of the great Austrian composer. Belmonte and Konstanze are coming home again!