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Learn about the piece:

Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio

Composed by

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart



piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, percussion, strings

First performance: July 16, 1782. Burtheater, Vienna.

notes by Dr. Philip Hoch

Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K. 384 (The Abduction from the Seraglio) is a three-act Singspiel
composed in 1782 and was premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna in the same year. A Singspiel
is a derivative of opera where spoken narration is inserted between sung arias and ariosos. The
libretto was written by Gottlieb Stephanie, whose text closely follows the story of Christoph
Bretzner’s Belmont und Constanze, oder Die Entführung aus dem Serail _(Belmont and
Konstanze, or the Abduction from the Seraglio_). In this Singspiel, the plot consists of a Spanish
nobleman, Belmonte, and his assistant Pedrillo, and their mission to rescue Konstanze from being
captured by the Ottoman general Pasha Selim. Konstanze was tragically captured by Turkish
pirates and sold to Pasha Selim, who held her hostage at his Ottoman castle (seraglio) in the
Turkish countryside. Consumed with rage for her misfortune, Belmonte is determined to rescue
her, but the story unfolds humorously as the magnanimous power of Pasha Selim quickly thwarts
his bravery. The opera contains a lively overture before Act I to showcase Belmonte’s eagerness
to rescue his beloved. Overtures were relatively common in operas from this time, some of which
signify the attendance of royalty, as is evident in Jean Baptiste Lully’s Armide, whose overture
was performed when King Louis XIV was present. The Abduction overture showcases Mozart’s
close attention to the character’s emotions and qualities. The overture begins with a festive theme
by the strings in C major, showcasing Belmonte’s heart for his beloved, Konstanze. From there, a
thrilling statement is performed by the entire orchestra. A contrasting theme in C minor emerges,
showcasing Belmonte’s realization of the arduous adventure that awaits him. The overture returns
to the vibrant C major opening, concluding joyfully with the full orchestra.

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