Kyle Vanderburg Music in the Classical Period September 25, 2010 Turkish Music in Die Entführung aus dem Serail

The opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail, or The Abduction from the Seraglio, is considered to be one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s greatest works and was his most successful musical venture during his lifetime. The opera, with libretto by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner and Gottlieb Stephanie, was written for the Austrian Nationalsingspiel, a project of Joseph II of Austria to bring German-language works to the masses. Joseph’s plan in creating a nationalsingspiel was to refine the Germanic culture of his people. The Viennese culture of this time was increasingly influenced by French language and culture which deeply troubled Joseph. The nature of the Holy Roman Empire as a collection of different states including Hungary, Bohemia, Austria, Germany, and parts of Italy did now allow for sufficient national pride. Joseph believed that a common language would unify and strengthen his empire.1 It was through this cultural vehicle that Mozart was able to compose his opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Turkish and Exotic influences in subject matter The plot of Die Entführung aus dem Serail takes place in Turkey, a place that was of much interest during Mozart’s time. The Holy Roman
1 Elizabeth Manning, “Mozart's Entführung: An Anniversary,” The Musical Times 123, No. 1673 (July 1982), 473.

Empire shared a border with the Ottoman Empire, and up until the late seventeenth-century the two countries were usually at odds with each other. This time of peace between the two empires sparked an interest in exoticism and orientalism, which greatly influenced Mozart’s opera. The opera has as its cast Belmonte, a Spanish noble and his betrothed, Konstanze, with their servants Pedrillo and Blonde, in addition to Pasha Selim and his servant, Osmin, and a chorus of Janissaries. Here we can see the concept of east (the “barbaric” Pasha Selim and Osmin) meeting west (the “civilized” Belmonte, Pedrillio, Konstanze, and Blonde). Konstanze and Blonde, we learn, have been kidnapped by pirates and sold to Pasha Selim, to be placed in his harem. Konstanze and Blonde deflect Pasha Selim’s and Osmin’s advances, Blonde is given to Osmin as a slave and Pasha Selim attempts to force Konstanze to love him. Belmonte and Pedrillo arrive to save Konstanze and Blonde, but must outsmart the “inferior” Turks. Belmonte and Pedrillo are arrested, and the two couples are taken to Pasha Selim for judgment. Pasha Selim realizes that Belmonte is the son of his enemy, and decides he does not wish to imitate his enemy. The two couples are released.2

2 Julian Rushton, “Entführung aus dem Serail, Die,” l.c. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed September 25, 2010).

Throughout the subject matter, the exotic lifestyle is depicted as lavish but immoral. Osmin acts as Mozart’s caricature of the Turkish people, being unsophisticated and crude and humorous more than anything else.3 Turkish and Exotic influences in orchestration Musically speaking, Mozart’s selection of instrumentation is one of the more obvious methods the composer employs to create a sense of Turkish and oriental setting. Die Entführung aus dem Serail is scored for typical classical-period orchestra with flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, and trumpets in pairs, two timpani, and strings. This instrumentation fits with Mozart’s operas after Idomeneo (when he added pairs of clarinets to his orchestra).4 However, Mozart also adds instruments that create a Turkish sound, including triangle, cymbals, bass drum, and piccolo.5 As these instruments were not in common usage in the western musical tradition, their sound was enough to depict images of exotic locales.

Turkish and Exotic influences in musical material While plot and orchestration show exotic influences quite clearly, the actual music shows a great deal of perceived Turkish influence as well. In this way, Die Entführung aus dem Serail is not a Mozart opera that sounds Turkish because of its plot and orchestration, but rather it sounds Turkish
3 Ibid. 4 Katherine T. Rohrer, “The Orchestra in Opera and Ballet,” in The Orchestra: Origins and Transformations, ed. Joan Peyser (New York: Billboard Books, 2000), 314. 5 Ibid.

because Mozart was writing the music to sound Turkish, beyond that accomplished by instrumentation. In Mozart’s time, the prevailing idea was that things labeled “Turkish” or “oriental” were largely simple, barbaric, and unrefined. This perception of Turkish culture is clearly seen in the music of Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which combines Mozart’s usual complexity with a simplified harmonic structure. While the instrumentation is reminiscent of janissary orchestras, Mozart ties the Turkish feel into the music itself, with a compositional process that lacks rhythmic and harmonic variety. Additionally, the rising and falling third in opening theme and the leaps up and down of a fourth in “Vivat Bacchus” point towards a Turkish character.6 While Mozart had several pieces that have moments that are classified as his “Turkish” style, including a section in his fifth violin concerto K. 219, the 'alla turca' movement from the piano sonata K. 331, and the aria 'Alles fiihlt der Liebe Freuden' from Die Zauberflöte, none of these works are as overtly oriental as Die Entführung aus dem Serail.7 Mozart’s careful use of Turkish musical material, instrumentation, and plot served the composer quite well in this operatic endeavor.

6 Elizabeth Manning, “Mozart's Entführung: An Anniversary,” The Musical Times 123, No. 1673 (July 1982), 473. 7 Benjamin Perl, “Mozart in Turkey,” Cambridge Opera Journal 12, No. 3 (November 2000), 219.

Bibliography Manning, Elizabeth. "Mozart's Entführung: An Anniversary" in The Musical Times 123, No. 1673 (July, 1982): 473-474. Perl, Benjamin. "Mozart in Turkey" in Cambridge Opera Journal 12, No. 3 (November, 2000): 219-235. Rohrer, Katherine T. “The Orchestra in Opera and Ballet.” In The Orchestra: Origins and Transformations, edited by Joan Peyser, 309-335. New York: Billboard Books, 2000. Rushton, Julian. “Entführung aus dem Serail, Die.” In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, 6411 (accessed September 25, 2010).

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