Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Musical highlights

Discover the musical highlights in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Mozart’s first opera for Vienna is an ambitious musical calling-card, designed to establish its young composer at the heart of this sophisticated society.

Exotic orchestral textures give the score its distinctive colour and vitality. Add to this many of the most demanding and dazzlingly virtuosic arias Mozart ever wrote, and you have a work of buoyant, irrepressible charm, whose lively twists and turns resolve in an unexpectedly thought-provoking conclusion.

You can enjoy some of the opera’s highlights below.

Martern aller arten

The bravura centrepiece of the opera, Konstanze’s Act II aria ‘Martern aller arten’ is fascinating both technically (the virtuosic demands it makes over 10 minutes of music are enormous) and psychologically. Konstanze refuses to betray Belmonte, saying she would rather suffer torture than submit to the Pasha.

The aria has an unusually long orchestral introduction, introducing four instrumental soloists (flute, oboe, violin, cello) who join Konstanze in this amplified, wide-screen aria. Furious volleys of semiquaver coloratura (rising steadily in tessitura) and some wide leaps express the heroine’s overflowing, barely controlled rage and passion, though whether that is directed towards herself and her desire for the Pasha or at him is unclear. Perhaps, like Fiordiligi’s ‘Come Scoglio’ from Così fan tutte, it is both – a supreme, self-galvanising performance of protestation.

Ich gehe doch rate ich ihr

Blonde and Osmin’s duet ‘Ich gehe doch rate ich ihr’ encapsulates the spirit of the opera’s comic, supporting characters as they sing their mutual conflict rather than love. Blonde defies Osmin’s attempts to order her around, mimicking his very low range with some impressively low notes of her own, and leading him on a merry musical dance that ricochets dizzyingly from mood to mood. Blonde’s quick wit and even quicker tongue emerge clearly in her skipping semiquaver and keen mimicry of her opponent.

In Mohrenland gefangen war ein Mädel

Pedrillo’s ‘In Mohrenland gefangen war ein Mädel’ is one of the most distinctive and attractive arias in the opera. Sung as a signal to the ladies to begin their escape, the song describes how a knight rescues a maiden from the clutches of the Moors, and featuring a pizzicato string accompaniment (imitating the plucking of Pedrillo’s mandolin) and lilting metre appropriate to a strophic folk-ballad. While the heroine of the ballad escapes easily, Pedrillo’s plot fares worse, prefigured by the song’s awkwardly unresolved ending.

O, wie will ich triumphieren

Mozart’s portrayal of the ‘villain’ Osmin is complicated – exaggeratedly ‘Other’ (he literally sings in a different – much lower – range than the other characters as well as in self-consciously ‘Turkish’ style) and often violent and musically transgressive, but always softened by comedy. Act III rondo aria ‘O, wie will ich triumphieren’ gives us Osmin in all his gleeful masochism, wishing down punishments on his enemies in rhythms that almost skip with delight, alternating between sadistic glee and startling low passages of even more sinister hue.

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