The Abduction from the Seraglio //
Singspiel in three movements · text by Johann Gottlieb Stephanie the Younger based on a libretto by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner
“I changed the “whee” to “fast”, as in: “Yet how fast my joy faded, etc.” I don’t know what our German poets are thinking; if they don’t understand theatre with regard to opera then they should at least make sure people don’t talk as if they’re in the company of swine – whee piggy!”
Leopold Mozart was probably accustomed to such silly excurses as this one in his son’s letter of 1781. Yet Wolfgang Amadeus took the criticism seriously which his librettist reaped for his »Abduction from the Seraglio«. He even moved to Vienna in hopes of receiving the commission for an opera from the emperor. He proposed a German singspiel for the newly established “Deutsches Nationaltheater« in Vienna. Obviously, he valued linguistic finesse and the precision of characterisation in the figures.
Konstanze is the one who sings of her fast-fading joy. Abducted to the court of Bassa Selim together with her maid Blonde and her friend Pedrillo, she is pressured by Selim to grant him her love. Belmonte, who wants to help her escape, learns from Pedrillo that his fiancée is betrothed to Bassa. Pedrillo, on the other hand, must fight the guard Osmin, who intends to steal his Blonde from him.
Instead of centring on the abduction as the dramatic moment of the piece, Mozart focuses instead on the fragility of the relationships. The secret rendezvous of the two couples shortly before they attempt to escape is overshadowed by jealousy and doubt, which shakes the foundation of their love, confronted with a foreign environment and a different world view. From there, Mozart crafts a gripping story using a good dose of irony and entertaining drama. A slap in the face is proof of fidelity before Osmin drives them into the arms of Selim, who generously grants them their freedom. However, through it all, he himself is never allowed to sing.
Goethe had attempted to compose a singspiel himself, but later confessed: »All our efforts to produce something ourselves in simple and limited form were lost when Mozart arrived on the scene. The ›Abduction from the Seraglio‹ crushed everything.« What Goethe lamented is what made »Il Saraglio« Mozart’s greatest triumph.
Elisabeth Stöppler has worked in Linz, Nuremberg, Oldenburg, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Hannover and Heidelberg. In 2009, she received the Götz Friedrich Award and the NRW Promotion Prize for directing Benjamin Britten’s »Peter Grimes«. She has been directing at the Semperoper in Dresden on a regular basis since 2010/11. Her most recent production was Henze’s »We Come to the River«.
Stefan Klingele/ Martin Virin (conductor)
Elisabeth Stöppler (director)
Karoly Risz (stage design)
Frank Lichtenberg (costumes)
Martina Stüz (dramaturgy)
Sebastian Campione, Daeyoung Kim (Osmin)
Jörn Eichler (Pedrillo)
Paul Enke (Selim)
Jaesig Lee (Belmonte)
Steffi Lehmann (Blonde)
Heike Porstein (Konstanze)