CAUTION! A performance for viewers over 18 years old.
32. Mozart Festival in Warsaw
Theatre of Warsaw Chamber Opera
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
THE ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO
Die Entführung aus dem Serail
Singspiel in three acts, in original German language version with Polish dialogues
Composer | Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto | Johann Gottlieb Stephanie der Jüngere
Premiere | June 2023
Director, staging and dialogues | Michał Znaniecki
Music director | Marcin Sompoliński
Choreographer | Inga Pilchowska
Set design, costumes and lighting | Paweł Dobrzycki
Set design collaboration | Katarzyna Gabrat-Szymańska
Assistant director | Oskar Winiarski
Assistant director WCO | Jolanta Denejko
Stage manager | Natalia Mirowska, Sara Rajewska-Syska
Konstanze – Joanna Moskowicz, Sylwia Krzysiek
Belmonte – Aleksander Kunach, Hubert Stolarski
Pedrillo – Bartosz Nowak
Blonde – Paulina Horajska, Katarzyna Drelich
Osmin – Sebastian Marszałowicz
Selim – Maciej Miecznikowski
Patryk Rybarski, Volodymyr Ryga, Jakub Jóźwiak, Tomasz Ziółek, Patryk Gnaś, Katarzyna Reisch
Vocal Ensemble of Warsaw Chamber Opera
Chorus master: Krzysztof Kusiel-Moroz
Ancient Instruments Ensemble of Warsaw Chamber Opera
Musicae Antiquae Collegium Varsoviense
EXACTLY AS MANY NOTES AS ARE NEEDED
I would say that in an opera the poetry must be altogether the obedient daughter of the music, wrote Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on November 13, 1781 in a letter to his father, Leopold. At the time, he worked intensively on his new work, The Abduction from the Seraglio, based on a libretto delivered to him by a poet born in Wrocław, Gottlieb Stephanie, one of the fathers of Singspiel. Why the Italian comic operas are so popular, despite their unfortunate librettos?, the composer was wondering in a letter, giving answers to his questions at the same time. Because music reigns in them, and when you listen to it, everything else is forgotten. Opera is doomed to success, when the plot is welldesigned, words are subordinated only to music, not stuffed between the notes here and there, in such a way as to fit into some unfortunate rhyming. The best thing happens when a good composer who has a workshop and is convincing enough in suggestions, meets a talented poet. Oh, a real phoenix. The effect is that in this case, you should not be afraid of applause, even the one coming from an ignoramus – said Mozart.
The Abduction from the Seraglio had a slight national subtext. According to the will of the Emperor Joseph II Habsburg, the great advocate of Singspiel as a national form of artistic expression, a kind of opposition to the Italian opera buffa, it was supposed to be exhibited in German. And as it often happens, after several years of unsuccessful efforts, resulting from the poor selection of Kapellmeisters, the Emperor himself decided to ask Mozart and the poet Gottlieb Stephanie to create a work that will fit into his idea of working out a German response to the ubiquitous Italian opera buffa.
The subject matter did not ignore the prevailing trends for everything, that was oriental, which was associated with the Ottoman Empire. At stalls in Vienna and Berlin you could find plenty of colored fabrics, spices and nuts and dried fruits, and everything that was associated with a distant land, in addition to the surrounding religious and cultural diversity of this land, raised a curiosity. In The Abduction from the Seraglio, the spectator got everything that this subject was associated with. The characters have been exaggerated, such as for example: Bassa Selim – a dangerous, despotic ruler, or libertine Osmin – a good-for-nothing, who supervises his harem. Also, music based on motives of Janissary choruses come to the fore in their western adaptation to classical orchestra, enriched with characteristic percussion instruments.
Originally, The Abduction from the Seraglio was planned as an opera whose premiere was to mark the visit of Prince Paul I Romanov, and later Tsar of Russia in Vienna. However, there was not much time and finally Romanov was welcomed by one of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s operas, giving Mozart more time to finish the work. As we all know, it definitely paid off. The composer worked on his final form for a long time, displaying ensembles and arias.
The success of the premiere (July 16, 1782 in Burgtheater in Vienna) was so great that it resulted in a special invitation of Mozart to the Emperor’s seat – Hofburg Palace. It was there, where the eagerly quoted words reviewing the work of the monarch were said: “Too beautiful for our ears, dear Mozart, and far too many notes!”. To which Mozart replied: “Exactly as many as are needed, Your Majesty..” The best review of what happened there is the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe himself: “All of our efforts to limit ourselves to what’s simple and unpublished have gone in vain when Mozart appeared. The Abduction from the Seraglio conquered everything, and our efforts to write a theatrical piece as perfect as his is a lost cause”. Although the Singspiel in Mozart’s works was already present in Bastien und Bastienne (1768) and Zaida (1780), The Abduction from the Seraglio is considered to be the first great work in this formula, and together with The Magic Flute (1791) constitute the canon of this genre. And it was The Abduction from the Seraglio that was the most frequently staged work during the life of the composer.