ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO, was Mozart’s first important German opera. Titled Die Entführung aus dem Serail in German, it received its premiere performance at the Vienna Burgtheater on July 16, 1782. The libretto is an adaptation by Gottlieb Stephanie of a play by Christoph F. Bretzner.
The Abduction belongs to a class of opera known as Singspiel; that is, a comic opera in which the musical numbers are separated by spoken dialogue. Historically, Singspiel was English ballad opera (for example, John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera, 1728) transplanted to the German stage. The Abduction, while not the first Singspiel, is the earliest example stili performed.
The plot revolves around the efforts of Belmonte (tenor) and his servant Pedrillo (tenor) to rescue Constanze (soprano) and her maid Blondchen (soprano) from the hands of Selim Bassa, a Turkish pasha (speaking part). The pasha’s overseer, Osmin (bass), nearly foils the efforts of the rescuers, but at the last moment the good-hearted Selim grants the two pairs of lovers their freedom.
The principal musical numbers of the opera include the overture; Constanze’s staggeringly difficult aria, Marten aller Arten; Osmin’s formidable “triumph” aria; the florid songs of Blondchen; Belmonte’s leh baue ganz; and the Janissaries’ chorus.
The Abduction contains much fine music but is not performed as frequently as Mozart’s Italian operas. It requires voices of great range and flexibility and is an intimate work that tends to be dwarfed in large theaters.