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Online opera guide & synopsis to Mozart’s DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL

Mozart was to write a Singspiel for Emperor Joseph II. He fulfilled his wish and wrote the first truly great work for this genre. At the same time he beyond it and wrote one of his great masterpieces.  It became one of his greatest successes during a sunny period of his life.





♪ Act I  (Square scene)

♪ Act II  (Palace scene)

♪ Act III  (Abduction scene)


Recording recommendation

♪ Recording recommendation




O wie ängstlich (Heart throb aria)

Durch Zärtlichkeiten und Schmeicheln

Martern aller Arten (Martern/ Torture aria)

Welche Wonne, welche Lust

Vivat Bacchus (Drink scene)

Ach Belmonte, ach, mein Leben (Quartetto)

Ich baue ganz auf Deine Stärke (Builder aria)

O, wie will ich triumphieren 










Vienna, 1762


Gottlieb Stephanie the Younger, based on Christoph Friedrich Bretzner's Belmonte and Constanze, or: The Abduction from the Seraglio


The main characters: Bassa Selim, Turkish Pasha (spoken role) - Osmin, palace overseer of the Bassa (bass) - Belmonte, Spanish nobleman (tenor) - Pedrillo, Belmonte's servant and overseer of the Bassa's gardens (soprano) - Konstanze, mistress of Belmonte (soprano) - Blonde, Konstanze's maid (soprano).


EMI, Edita Gruberova, Kathleen Battle, Gösta Winbergh, Heinz Zednik, Martti Talvela conducted by Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Chorus








Written in a happy phase of Mozart’s life

Mozart wrote the Abduction at a happy time in his life. The 26-year-old had found happiness in his private life with the move to Vienna and with the connection to Konstanze and he enjoyed the success he had with his music in Vienna and Prague. The Abduction was premiered in Vienna in 1782 and was brilliantly received. In Prague the audience’s reactions were even triumphant. With the payment for the opera he was able to move into an apartment and thus lay the foundation for his marriage to his wife Konstanze. Three weeks after the premiere they got married. Whether the correspondence of his wife’s name and that of the leading role is coincidence or not is a matter of dispute among experts.



An opera of the Singspiel

“Die Entführung aus dem Serail” is a milestone of the German Singspiel. In Vienna at that time the Italian opera dominated, with Salieri as its main representative. Emperor Joseph II encouraged Mozart to compose for the “German National Singspiel” and finally commissioned Mozart to write a opera. The Singspiel is a theatrical type with folk music and spoken dialogues instead of the recitative dialogues of the Opera Seria. With this work, Mozart fulfilled the demand of his regent, moreover, he created a brilliant symbiosis of German and Italian art of singing. Joseph II attended the performance. He had a somewhat old-fashioned taste and said laconically: “Too beautiful for our ears and an enormous number of notes, dear Mozart.” To which Mozart replied, “Just as many notes, Your Majesty, as are necessary.” Despite the brilliant reception of the work, Mozart did not get the position at Joseph’s court that he had sought, but he was also too proud to beg for the position.



The librettist

As a model for his libretto the librettist Gottlieb Stephanie the Younger used on the one hand, a work that had been performed in London 12 years previously and a play by Bretzner based on it. It was about the liberation of a European woman from a Turkish harem. Stephanie had an eventful biography. He was already a soldier at a young age and at the age of sixteen he took part in the Seven Years’ War and then three years later he was taken prisoner of war. Finally he became an actor and wrote plays and libretti. Although the libretto of the Abduction should not be counted among the high literature, it was good enough to ignite the spark of inspiration in Mozart. However, with the exception of Konstanze, the characters remain rather oversimplyfied and do not reach da Ponte’s role icons such as Don Giovanni, Figaro or the Countess.


The “Turkish ” music as a tribute to the fashion of the time

Synopsis: A square in front of the Palace of Bassa Selim.

The overture is a brilliant piece of music. It consists of three parts. It begins in  Presto with the classical “Turkish percussion”. Mozart used the Turkish effects in forte, using the complementary instruments of piccolo flute, cymbals, triangle and bass drums.  100 years earlier the Turks had besieged Vienna for the last time and in the years before the composition everything Turkish was en vogue. The tenor of this fashion was a mixture of mockery (the Ottoman Empire had largely dissolved) and fascination with the exotic and the beauty of Moorish culture.

After the first part, we hear a beautiful theme of the oboe in the middle section, composed in a minor key, which we encounter again in Belmonte’s first aria. The final section resumes the opening theme.

Ouvertüre  –  Etvös








Belmonte is in search of Konstanze

Synopsis: Constanze was captured by pirates and sold to the Bassa Selim together with her servant Blonde and Pedrillo. Constanze’s lover Belmonte has found out her whereabouts with the help of a secret letter from his servant Pedrillo. He is now standing in front of Bassa Selim’s palace and plans to abduct her.

In his initial aria, Belmonte takes up the ouverture’s theme of the middle section; Mozart has transposed it in major. He wrote a beautiful aria for the tenor, allowing him to give a brilliant performance.

Hier soll ich dich denn sehen  –  Wunderlich



Osmin appears

Synopsis: Osmin shows up. He is Bassa Selim’s palace guard  and he has been given Blonde, Konstanze’s servant.

Osmin is a classic buffo figure of the singspiel. His musical themes are folk song themes. This one is written in 3 simple verses and ends with a candenza whose text is a simple trallalla. The singer has to be precise in the three verses, because the text content changes. He begins innocently (“sweeten all her life”), becomes assaulting in the second verse (“he must carefully lock sweetheart up”) and betrays his jealousy in the third (“often a young lordling is listening then”).

The Osmin was one of the parade roles of Gottlob Frick, who filled the role with comedic talent.

Wer ein Liebchen hat gefunden  –  Frick



Synopsis: Belmonte approaches him and tries to sound him out. He learns that Pedrillo leaves in the palace and that Osmin has a cordial dislike for him. Osmin is suspicious of Belmonte and suspects that he has come to steal women from the Seraglio.

The figure of Osmin plays only a marginal role in the literary model. The theatre man Mozart quickly realized that an enhancement of this role could earn him the sympathy of his Viennese audience. In fact, the contrast between the aristocratic Belmonte and the simpleton Osmin is captivating, and it is enjoyable to listen to Osmin imitate the (for him) strange and snobbish Belmonte in this duet.

Verwünscht seist du samt deinem Liede  –  Bostridge / Ewing



Pedrillo and Osmin, the rivals for Blonde’s favour, bicker with each other

Synopsis: Belmonte leaves Osmin and Pedrillo shows up. He has won Selim’s favour through his work in the gardens and wants to get along with Osmin, but he does not succeed in appeasing the warden’s hostility.

Osmin’s aria is an evil play about torture and death, a classic stereotype about the evil Turk.

Solche hergelauffene Laffen  –  Moll



Mozart’s favourite aria – a lyrical heart-throbbing piece

Synopsis: As Osmin leaves the square, Belmonte appears and recognizes Pedrillo. His servant tells him what has happened. Belmonte cannot believe his ears when he learns that Konstanze has landed in the harem of Selim. Pedrillo calms him down and assures him that nothing has happened yet. Belmonte has a ship ready for escape and tells Pedrillo about his abduction plan. To get into the palace, Pedrillo advises his master to pose as a builder, since architecture is Selim’s hobby. Belmonte is full of anticipation for the reunion with Konstanze.

It was not for the last time, that Mozart wrote a beautiful piece about a beating heart (compare 10 years later the beautiful “batti o batti bel Masetto” from Don Giovanni), which he lets throb beautifully in the orchestra. It was one of Mozart’s favourite pieces. The dotted notes of the strings (in octaves) and the beautiful crescendi are composed very sensitively.

In this aria we hear Fritz Wunderlich.  Wunderlich was considered the “ideal” Mozart tenor in the post-war years. Mozart’s tenor roles require an agile and lyrical voice. As a rule, they “only” have to sing emotions, because the action and its drama takes place in the recitatives.

O wie ängstlich, wie feurig klopft mein liebevolles Herz





Synopsis: Accompanied by janissary music Selim appears accompanied by Konstanze. Belmonte and Pedrillo quickly hide.

It is a colourful march, which Mozart wrote effectively with Turkish colouring.

Marsch, Singt dem grossen Bassa Lieder



Bassa appears – Mozart uses a pure speaking role

The role of Selim is very special. He is present in many scenes on stage, but he does not sing a single note. The character is conceived as a pure speaking role. Possibly the librettist and Mozart did not plan it this way from the beginning, but it was due to the fact that the planned singer cancelled for health reasons and an emergency solution became a permanent solution.

In terms of content, he admires Konstanze most of the time when she sings arias, often he testifies his love for her and now and then he violently threatens her with torture.

Synopsis: Bassa declares his love to Konstanze once again, he could be cruel to her, but he wants her to love him of her own free will. His patience is slowly coming to an end and Konstanze asks him one last time for patience. She cannot forget her lover, to whom she has sworn allegiance.

Mozart differentiates the music of the pair Konstanze/Belmonte on the one hand, and that of the lower class pair Blonde/Pedrillo on the other. The music of the socially higher class couple is more artistic and endowed with great emotions. The seriousness of the music, the emotional leaps in tone and the elaborate ornamentation bear witness to this. All these elements can be heard in this aria of the Konstanze. This aria is technically very demanding, the coloratura and especially the leaps in tone require a great art of singing. Mozart wrote the role of the Konstanze for Caterina Cavalieri. She is said to have been of ugly form and also blind in one eye. She was a darling of the Viennese public and Mozart was enthusiastic about her coloratura arts. Mozart wrote perhaps his most difficult singing role for her. Mozart confirmed that he wrote the aria in the throat of the Cavalieri in the form of an “Italian bravura aria”.

Ach ich liebte, war so glücklich…doch wie schnell schwand meine Freude  –  Gruberova


Synopsis: Selim grants her one more day to think it over and sends her away angry. Then Pedrillo appears, accompanied by Belmonte, and introduces him as the master builder. Selim allows him to enter the palace and wants to test him the next day. At the gate, Osmin does not want to let them in, but they push him away and enter the palace.

In this scene a pleasurable trio unfolds. Mozart wrote a short but all the more effective finale to demand the applause of the audience.

Marsch! Marsch! Trollt Euch fort  –  Davies / White / Hoback








Blonde gives Osmin a chewing out

Synopsis: In the garden of the palace in front of Osmins apartment. Blonde mockingly explains to Osmin that one does not win the hearts of European women by treating them like slaves.

Blonde’s aria is written in the manner of a singspiel, but don’t be fooled, Mozart demands great vocal artistry from the singer, a classical soubrette role, which must be performed with elegance. Mozart also leads the voice up to the high E (in the following music example 3:45).

In this number, the orchestra’s instrumentation is with strings only, so the music is very transparent with the effect that the voice is highly exposed.

We hear this piece sung by Regula Mühlemann from a CD with Mozart arias, with which she won a renowned German classical music prize in 2017.

Durch Zärtlichkeiten und Schmeicheln  –  Mühlemann


Synopsis: Osmin is jealous of Pedrillo and threatens her, but Blonde is not intimidated by him and chases him away.

This duet is known for the low notes of the bass, among other things. For the premiere Mozart had an excellent ensemble at his disposal, whose bass, Ludwig Fischer, “produces the lowest notes with fullness, lightness and comfort”.  Mozart took advantage of this and composed some low notes in the part, in this aria for example up to the low E flat.

Ich gehe, doch rate ich Dir  –  Moll / Watson



Konstanze’s grand scene begins

Synopsis: Konstanze enters the garden. She is in thought and longs for Belmonte.

Mozart wrote this aria in G minor, the same sensitive key as Pamina’s “Ach ich fühls”. The aria and recitative of this scene last almost 10 minutes. In order to spare the singer, the scene is shortened from time to time so that the voice remains fresh enough for the following great aria.

Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose  –  Gruberova



Konstanze is ready for the torture

Synopsis: Selim appears. He expects that tomorrow, Konstanze will belong to him and love him. But Constance would rather die than give herself to him. When Selim threatens her, she shows herself willing to endure agony, the end of which will be her death.

Mozart wrote an overwhelming piece for this psychological drama of Konstanze. The so-called “Martern-Arie” is one of the most difficult arias in the opera literature. It requires strength for the long dramatic passages, a great mastery of coloratura and a considerable range of voice. In addition, stamina is required, because directly before this aria the singer already had to sing a long aria. While the preceding aria “Traurigkeit ist mein Los” is in a resigned, hopeless tone, Mozart shows Konstanze in the so-called “Martern-Aria” (“Marter” means “torture”) as a passionate, sacrificial woman.

This 10-minute piece is musically and dramatically immensely rich in content and is often described as a huge “Concerto for coloratura soprano, solo instruments and orchestra”. The aria begins with an unusually long and overture-like introduction in which the solo instruments (oboe, flute, violin, cello) play colorful passages.

We hear this great Aria in an interpretation by Edda Moser. The German was one of the great Mozart coloratura sopranos of the post-war period. She was a singer who commited herself to her roles without compromise and never spared her voice. The power of her voice enabled her not only to sing roles of the coloratura fach but also to shine in the dramatic field. Her recordings of Konstanze and her “Königin der Nacht” glowed like a red flame. The latter even made it into the series of golden recordings that the spaceship Voyager carried into the vastness of space. The simultaneous agility and power of the voice was remarkable, listen for example to the passage where she sings the sustained high C and then sings a flawless trill (6:30).

Martern aller Arten  –  Moser



Blonde and Pedrillo are ready for a risky escape from the seraglio

Synopsis: When Blonde is alone, Pedrillo approaches her and tells her about Belmonte’s arrival and their plan to escape by boat that very night. Blonde is on fire for the plan.

Nothing was too difficult for the gifted Mozart singer Lucia Popp. On this recording she sings the Blonde’s aria with admirable ease and soulfulness.

Welche Wonne, welche Lust  – Popp


Synopsis: Pedrillo is also ready to escape without hesitation.

Frisch zum Kampfe  –  Zednik


The comedic drinking scene     

Synopsis: To eliminate Osmin, Pedrillo puts a sleeping pill in the wine and persuades Osmin to drink wine.

This wine scene is a comedic passage. Osmin hopes that Mohammed will turn a blind eye and drinks himself into a mighty frenzy. Musically Mozart combines cheeky Turkish music with a hymn to Bacchus.

We hear and see this scene in a comic production from the Amsterdam Opera.

Vivat Bacchus  –  Rydl / Smallwood



The reunion of Konstanze and Belmonte

Synopsis: Soon the sleeping pill takes effect. Belmonte steps in and sees Konstanze with joy and tells her about the escape plan.

This reunion aria after such a long time of separation is surprisingly reserved. It begins in a thoughtfully dreamy Adagio and does not leave this mood during the rest of the aria.

Wenn der Freude Tränen fließen  –  Wunderlich



The great quartet with discords

Synopsis: The two couples are now reunited. Both men want to know from their loved ones whether they have remained faithful. Outraged, they reject the suspicions. The two men apologize and the couples reconcile.

Now the emotions break through musically as well. The joyful quartet begins with festive music. But suddenly the key changes to minor and with the doubt about the fidelity of the women a shadow is cast over the scene. The women can dispel the doubts and the act ends in a joyful mood.

Ach Belmonte, ach, mein Leben (Quartett)  –  Gruberova / Grist / Araiza / Orth             







Synopsis: It’s midnight outside the palace. Belmonte trusts in love, which gives him and Konstanze strength to stand the escape.

This so-called master builder aria, with its intricate coloratura passages, is the most demanding of Belmonte’s four arias.

In our musical example we hear how Fritz Wunderlich sings the aria with much expression and confidence. Belmonte was one of the roles with which Wunderlich became a (sorely missed) legend after his early death. Although his coloraturas were not perfect, none could lend Mozart’s tenor arias velvety lyricism and at the same time masculinity.

Ich baue ganz auf Deine Stärke –  Wunderlich



The attempt to escape begins with Pedrillo’s Moor Aria

Synopsis: Pedrillo steps in with a ladder. As a signal to the women he sings a romance.

Im Mohrenland gefangen war ein Mädel hübsch und fein  –  Gedda



Osmins triumphs – Mozart leads Osmins voice into the cellar

Synopsis: Konstanze shows up at the window. Belmonte climbs up and leads her to the exit. When Pedrillo also wants to fetch Blonde, Osmin, who woke up too early, appears and notices the ladder. The escapees are quickly caught. Osmin triumphs.

This aria is the most beautiful part of Osmin. A gem for a comedic bass with a large vocal range and a secure depth.

Kesting speaks in the highest tones of Kurt Moll’s Osmin: “Kurt Moll’s Osmin is one of the most haunting portraits and one of the greatest vocal achievements of the LP era”. In this aria one hears a great agility of voice (from 2:09) and the amazing vocal range that allows him to sing effortlessly the lowest note written in a famous opera (the low D at 2:35)

O, wie will ich triumphieren  –   Moll


We hear this piece in another version sung in Italian. Ezio Pinza was the Italian with perhaps the most beautiful bass voice that the Mediterranean country had produced. Born in 1892, he came from a poor background and tried his hand at cycling, among other things. He had no formal singing training and therefore could not read music (he shared this fate with the most famous tenor of the thirties, Benjamino Gigli)! The recording dates from his later years and enjoys cult status.

A che voglio trionfare  –  Pinza



Selim shows himself a worthy representative of humanism

Synopsis: Osmin takes them to Bassa Selim. Constanze is ready to die and asks that Belmonte’s life be spared. Bassa demands revenge. Belmonte reveals himself as the son of the commander of Oran, who would be willing to pay any ransom. Selim realizes that he has the son of his worst enemy in his hands. Because of him, he had to leave Spain, and now he has the opportunity for revenge. He orders torture. Belmonte and Constanze are deeply moved when they say goodbye to each other.

Welch ein Geschick


Synopsis: Selim is moved and changes his mind. He does not want to compensate a past injustice with injustice and the magnanimousSelim gives freedom to the four of them. All are moved by Selim’s nobleness, only Osmin foams at the loss of Blondes.

One of the key themes of the opera is enlightened humanism. The Turks are not simply shown as a wild horde (like Rossini 30 years later) but Mozart and Stephanie show that there is good and evil in every nation.

One of the key themes of the opera is enlightened humanism. The Turks are not simply shown as a wild horde (like Rossini 30 years later) but Mozart and Stephanie show that there is good and evil in every nation.

Mozart concludes the opera with a vaudeville, a catchy final chorus sung by the ensemble, presenting the moral of the story:

Nothing is as loathsome as revenge;
Bu to be humane and kind

And to forgive without self-interest –
only a great soul is capable of that.

The finale ends with exuberant music in Turkish style.

We hear this scene from Milos Forman’s Movie “Amadeus”.

Bassa Selim lebe lange



Recording recommendation of the opera DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL


No specific recommendation.




Peter Lutz, opera-inside, the online opera guide on DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


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