Our guide to Glyndebourne: Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Photo by Richard Hubert Smith.

Photo by Richard Hubert Smith.

In our previous blogpost we got to grips with opera company Glyndebourne: who they are, how they started and why they’re so very exciting for us. Now, Kate Evans takes us through each of the three productions they’ll be bringing to us in November, starting with Die Entführung aus dem Serail.

So, we should probably start with the title! It’s usually translated as ‘The Abduction From The Seraglio’, seraglio being another word for harem. Yes, we are in the world of the exotic Orient, as imagined by the West in the 18th century.

In this opera we follow the story of a Spanish nobleman, Belmonte, and his attempt to rescue his beloved, Konstanze, from the harem of the Turkish Pasha Selim. As you may guess from the title, singing is in German – but those non-German speakers among you will be pleased to learn that this production does have English supertitles!

Die Entführung is part of a great eighteenth century fascination with all things ‘Eastern’ – possibly triggered by the failed siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Turks in 1683. It reflects the contemporary view of the Orient as strange, opulent and dissolute – but being Mozart, it’s never simplistic, and has (small spoiler alert!) a surprise ending which turns the audience’s expectations on their heads.


Photo by Richard Hubert Smith.

So, that’s the plot – what about the music? The opera is in a style called ‘singspiel’, which means ‘sung play’. This means it contains spoken dialogue between its musical numbers, a bit like many modern musicals. It contains some of Mozart’s most spectacular and difficult to sing arias. The most famous aria is one sung by Konstanze whilst she is trapped in the Pasha’s harem – called Martern aller Arten (Tortures Of All Kinds). It is regarded as one of the great challenges for sopranos.

Mozart was just 26 when he wrote Die Entführung – an age when most composers would just be getting started, but Mozart was already something of a veteran. He was also desperate for money and needed to write something that would immediately be popular. First performed in Vienna in 1782, Die Entführung was exactly that  – despite the verdict of the Emperor Joseph II, who reportedly commented: “too many notes, my dear Mozart!”

Whatever the Emperor thought – Die Entführung has remained a hugely popular work – and this production has garnered some outstanding reviews. The Stage described it as ‘a vocal and visual treat’ whilst the Guardian said the production was ‘mesmerising’. We can’t wait!

Glyndebourne’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail comes to The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, on Wednesday 4 and Saturday 7 November, alongside performances of Don Pasquale and Saul.

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