Opera Scotland

Seraglio The Abduction from the Harem; Die Entf├╝hrung aus dem Serail

Music
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (born Salzburg, 27 January 1756; died Vienna, 5 December 1791)

Text
Gottlieb Stephanie the Younger.

Source
Libretto Belmont und Constanze, oder Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1781) set by Johann André.

Premieres
First performance: Vienna (Burgtheater), 16 July 1782.
First UK performance: London (Covent Garden), 24 November 1827.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King's Theatre), 17 March 1917.
Scottish Opera premiere: Glasgow (King’s Theatre), 28 May 1963.

Background
Mozart was determined to support the regular performance of opera in German. The tradition, such as it was, embraced Singspiel, a simple form of spoken play interspersed with sung sections. As a child, Mozart produced a simple example Bastien und Bastienne, and he later composed sections of another piece with a Turkish setting. The intended title is unknown, but it is now generally called Zaide. Die Entführung is a much grander piece than the earlier examples. The plot is expounded in spoken dialogue, and the sung sections are generally inserted when a character is required to comment on his situation. The greatest creation in this work is the character of Osmin, who is partly comic, but also a serious threat to the safety of the western characters. Pasha Selim is shown to be a sympathetic and magnanimous individual, which must have been disturbing for contemporary audiences. Belmonte and Konstanze may have noble, elegant and fiendishly difficult music to sing, but their behaviour does allow them to forfeit audience sympathy. The servants are quite conventional.

Characters
Belmonte, a Spanish nobleman (tenor)
Pedrillo, his servant (tenor)
Konstanze, a Spanish lady (soprano)
Blonde, her English maid (soprano)
Bassa Selim (speaker)
Osmin, overseer of his harem (bass)

Plot Summary
Belmonte has been searching for his beloved Konstanze, who has been abducted by pirates. He has traced her to Selim’s palace. Osmin confirms that Belmonte has reached that building, and that Pedrillo lives there in captivity. Osmin hates Pedrillo because they both love Blonde, who is also a captive. Left alone, Belmonte is joined by Pedrillo, who is delighted to meet him again, and tells him that Konstanze is also a prisoner. Konstanze is under pressure to give in to the Pasha and marry him. She still resists. Belmonte is admitted to the Pasha’s service on the basis that he is an architect. Osmin is frustrated at his inability to make headway in his courtship of Blonde. Konstanze is again forced to resist the entreaties of the Pasha. To facilitate the planned escape, Pedrillo gets Osmin drunk until he falls into a stupor. But the escape is foiled and all four are recaptured. After Osmin has gleefully anticipated the method of their approaching execution, the Pasha comes. Konstanze explains that she loves Belmonte, and Belmonte says that his father will pay a large ransom. On hearing the name of Belmonte’s father, the Pasha declares that this man is his sworn enemy having robbed and exiled him many years ago. However the Pasha is not prepared to sink to that level himself, and he magnanimously permits all four to leave.

The Cast

Belmonte
 a Spanish aristocrat
Blonde
 Konstanze's English maid
Konstanze
 a Spanish lady
Osmin
 the Pasha's overseer
Pedrillo
 Belmonte's servant
Selim
 a Turkish Pasha

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