A Manifesto of Love

A masterpiece full of depth and maturity

The Abduction from the Seraglio

Volksoper Vienna 2010 Photo: Austrian Theatre Museum, Vienna / Barbara Palffy
The Abduction from the Seraglio

The Abduction from the Seraglio

Volksoper Vienna 2010 Photo: Austrian Theatre Museum, Vienna / Barbara Palffy

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was 25 years old and finally wanted to take his life into his own hands. He went to Vienna. Even when his father continued to try to exert his influence over his son, Wolfgang would not listen. On top of this, he had fallen in love: he had rented a room from the Weber family, long-time friends of the Mozarts. Welcomed and provided for by the family he composed undisturbed. And he wanted to marry Constanze Weber – a fact he kept secret from his father Leopold.

At this time he was commissioned to compose “The Abduction from the Seraglio” by Emperor Joseph II. Many critics spot parallels between the content of this Mozart opera and his private situation. After all, he was a penniless young artist and his future mother in law Cäcilie was hesitant to grant him the hand of her daughter. Evidently, he worked his own private difficulties into this Mozart opera. But maybe this is only speculation…

A Mozart Opera full of emotional depth

It is a fact that “The Abduction from the Seraglio”, initially designed as an entertaining Turkish opera, is a work full of emotional depth. The characters display many layers and develop an unexpected complexity. Mozart wrote to his father about an aria by Osim: “In this aria I made many underlying tones shine.”

This distinguishes this Mozart opera from many contemporary works. The story is based on the libretto of the operetta “Belmont and Constanze” by Christoph Bretzner, but Mozart reworked the material with his librettist Gottfried Stephanie according to his own ideas.

Lovers on the run

The protagonists are the young Spaniard Konstanze, her maid Blonde and her friend and servant Pedrillo. After a pirate attack the three are separated from Konstanze’s fiancé Belmonte and sold at a slave market. They end up in the palace of Bassa Selim. Belmonte sets out to search for them and gains access to the palace. Here he meets Pedrillo and plans the liberation of Konstanze and Blonde. But it is not that easy. Bassa Selim tries to win Konstanze’s love, the overseer of the slaves the love of Blonde. Neither woman will have any of it and both wait for their liberation.

Finally Pedrillo incapacitates Osim with wine, Belmonte is reunited with Konstanze and they plan their escape. They seem to succeed at first, but are thwarted by Bassa Selim and Osim. Bassa Selim decides to have all four put to death, but finally shows mercy: this brings him more satisfaction than taking lives.

“Turkish Music” – the fashion of the time

Mozart’s “Turkish” music was characterised by the use of unusual instruments such as cymbals, big (Turkish) drums, piccolo flutes and triangles. He had tremendous fun composing and the so-called “Janissary music” gave the opera a certain indefinable something. But new techniques and previously unknown traits are also characteristics of his “Turkish music”.

With his “The Abduction from the Seraglio”, Mozart created the first of his great masterpieces. It premiered on July 16, 1782, in Vienna and was a great success.