Die Entführung aus dem Serail - Further information

Die Entführung aus dem Serail: Bernd Schmidt, Maria Bengtsson Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail Die Entführung aus dem Serail
Die Entführung aus dem Serail
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Johann Gottlieb Stephanie d.J.

World Première on 16th July 1782, Burgtheater Vienna


"A certain person from Vienna by the name of Mozart has had the audacity to misuse my drama Belmonte and Constanze as a libretto for an opera. I hereby most solemnly protest at this infringement of my rights and reserve the right to undertake further steps in this  matter". The person writing these words in the "Leipziger Zeitung" in 1782, Christoph Friedrich Bretzner, could have had no idea that he would go down in history as one of Mozart's librettists.

That "certain person" Mozart, who was given Bretzner's text by Johann Gottlieb Stephanie, the director of the National Singspiel in Vienna, was not yet the famous composer he was about to become after the première of Die Entführung aus dem Sérail on 16th July 1782. The great success of this work made the twenty six year old Mozart famous as an opera composer far beyond the borders of Austria and Die Entführung became the most successful Mozart opera performed during the composer's lifetime.

Bretzner himself had rewritten his drama as a Singspiel, which had been set to music by the composer Johann André before Mozart ever saw the original text. With the help of Stephanie, Mozart altered the text for his libretto. The story of two separated couples is set in an oriental harem – a modish Viennese theatrical convention of the time. Constanze, who has been carried off by pirates, has been sold to the Pasha Selim together with her maid Blonde. Their lovers, Belmonte and Pedrillo, plan to free them but the overseer of the harem, Osmin, prevents them from escaping. Although the Pasha Selim recognizes in Belmonte the son of his deadly enemy, he generously allows all four of them to be freed. The end of the story, with its moral enlightment, clearly indicates the development towards the humanism we see later in Die Zauberflöte.

In this Singspiel, Mozart paved the way for the German language to be used on the opera stage. The music, which alternates between the mood of opera buffa and opera seria, displays the strength and individuality of Mozart's musical expression. This ranges from Osmin's angry outbreaks to the virtuosity of the great aria "Martern aller Arten" sung by Constanze. Mozart’s work portrays human characters and emotions in a way not hitherto experienced in a Singspiel. Kaiser Joseph II was impressed but is quoted as having said at the première: "Too many notes, my dear Mozart." Where-upon the composer answered: "Not too many, your Majesty ... just as many as are necessary."

This new production will be directed by Martin Duncan, who has already staged The Rake's Progress, Xerxes and La clemenza di Tito at the Bavarian State Opera. Sets and costumes will be designed by Ultz. Daniel Harding will conduct and Sandrine Piau will sing the role of Constanze, Deborah York that of Blonde, Roberto Saccà that of Belmonte, Kevin Conners Pedrillo and Paata Burchuladze Osmin. The première will take place on 15th January 2003.

Sir Peter Jonas
March 2002