180 Days With Mozart And Me

A Survey Of The Philips Complete Mozart Edition…From Symphonies Through Theatre And Ballet Music

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Of Christiane Eda-Pierre. Period. (German Operas, Box 16)

May 30th, 2010 · No Comments · Box 16: German Operas, Christiane Eda-Pierre, Mozart at 24, Vienna (May 29 1782)

German OperasThe recording of this opera has a lot going for it, not least of which is the music is played by The Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields. That, automatically, gives it a feel and sound that grabs me. I don’t think I’ve yet heard a recording by the Academy that I didn’t like.

Another plus for this recording: Top-notch tenors and bass singers. Plus, there’s a noticeable melody, a nice flow to the music.

But what sells this music to me is one vocalist, a soprano named Christiane Eda-Pierre. Her voice is Nicolai Gedda good, which is to say absolutely world class. One of the finest the world has to offer. When she sings, my ears perk up. As I was listening to this at Panera Bread this morning, I said, “Wow” out loud as I listened to Track 20 (Introduktion – “Martern aller Arten” – “Doch du bist entschlossen”). Christiane’s voice has a tremendous range and pure tonality. Wow is the only word I have describe what I’m hearing.

As for the opera itself, here’s some background on it from Wikipedia:

Die Entführung aus dem Serail (K. 384; The Abduction from the Seraglio; also known as Il Seraglio) is an opera Singspiel in three acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The German libretto is by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner with adaptations by Gottlieb Stephanie. The plot concerns the attempt of the hero Belmonte, assisted by his servant Pedrillo, to rescue his beloved Konstanze from the seraglio of the Pasha Selim.

The Character of the Opera
Die Entführung aus dem Serail is in the genre of “Singspiel”, meaning that much of the action is carried forward by spoken dialogue, thus the music lacks recitatives and consists entirely of set numbers.

The work is lighthearted and frequently comic, with little deep character exploration or darker feelings found in Mozart’s later operas. Along with other contemporary works, such as Giovanni Paolo Marana’s Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy and Montesquieu’s Persian Letters, the opera was inspired by a contemporary interest in the perceived “exotic” culture of the Ottoman Empire, a nation which had only recently ceased to be a military threat to the Austrian Empire. Mozart’s opera includes a Westernized version of Turkish music, based very loosely on the Turkish Janissary band music that he had employed in earlier work. (See Turkish music (style)). Like most comedies of the time, it incorporates many elements of plot and characterization established by the popular Commedia dell’arte.

Reception
The opera was a huge success. The first two performances brought in the large sum of 1200 florins, three times what Mozart’s salary had been for his old job in Salzburg. The work was repeatedly performed in Vienna during Mozart’s lifetime, and throughout German-speaking Europe. In 1787, Goethe wrote (concerning his own efforts as a librettist):

“All our endeavour … to confine ourselves to what is simple and limited was lost when Mozart appeared. Die Entführung aus dem Serail conquered all, and our own carefully written piece has never been so much as mentioned in theater circles.”

The “too many notes” tale
The complexity of Mozart’s work, noted early on by Goethe, also plays a role in a well-known tale about the opera. In the version from Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes, the story goes like this:

“The Emperor Joseph II commissioned the creation of The abduction from the Seraglio, but when he heard it, he complained to Mozart, ‘That is too fine for my ears — there are too many notes.’ Mozart replied, ‘There are just as many notes as there should be.’”

The anecdote originally appeared in an early biography of Mozart by Franz Xaver Niemetschek. Its authenticity is not accepted by all scholars.

Since I have Part II to listen to tomorrow, I’ll save the cast information for then.

I like this opera, which Mozart wrote when he was 26. It just feels nice. And it sounds terrific.

Here is what I listened to today, complete with the best guesses of scholars regarding where and when each composition was penned. This information was pieced together from The Compactothèque book + CD, which is an essential purchase if you want the fullest enjoyment from the Philips Complete Mozart Edition. It’s only about $8 and the sampler CD, alone, is remarkably enjoyable. But the booklet is gold, Jerry! Gold! Keep in mind, some of these places and dates are merely guesses. But I find it fascinating to see even guesses for some of these compositions. They help me put Mozart’s life and creative output in perspective.

For example, Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart was born on 27 January 1756. With that in mind, take a look at where and when these pieces were composed. I’ll add Mozart’s approximate age in the parenthetical data below each composition:

1. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 – Ouvertüre (The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields)
2. “Hier soll ich dich denn sehen” [Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 1] (Stuart Burrows)
3. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 1 – “Aber wie soll ich in den Palast kommen?” (Friedhelm Ptok)
4. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 1 – “Wer ein Liebchen hat gefunden” – “Verwünscht seist du samt deinem Liede!” (Stuart Burrows)
5. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 1 – “Allah sei Dank!” (Franz Rudnick)
6. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 1 – “Solche hergelaufne Laffen” – “Was bist du nur für ein Mensch!” – “Erst geköpft, dann gehangen” (Franz Rudnick)
7. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 1 – “Geh nur, verwünschter Aufpasser” (Friedhelm Ptok)
8. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 1 – “Konstanze, dich wiederzusehen” – “O wie ängstlich, o wie feurig” (Stuart Burrows)
9. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 1 – “Singt dem großen Bassa Lieder” (The John Alldis Choir)
10. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 1 – “Immer noch traurig, geliebte Konstanze?” (Renate Pichler)
11. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 1 – “Ach ich liebte, war so glücklich” (Christiane Eda-Pierre)
12. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 1 – “Undankbare!” – “Ihr Schmerz, ihr Tränen” (Curd Jürgens)
13. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 1 – “Marsch! Trollt euch fort!” (Stuart Burrows)
14. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 2 – “Durch Zärtlichkeit und Schmeicheln” (Norma Burrowes)
15. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 2 – “Ei seht doch mal” (Pia Werfel)
16. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 2 – “Ich gehe, doch rate ich dir” (Norma Burrowes)
17. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 2 – “Welcher Kummer herrscht in meiner Seele” (Christiane Eda-Pierre)
18. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 2 – “Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose”
19. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 2 – “Nun, Konstanze, hast du dich entschieden?” (Renate Pichler)
20. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 2 – Introduktion – “Martern aller Arten” – “Doch du bist entschlossen” (Christiane Eda-Pierre)
21. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 2 – “Kein Bassa, keine Konstanze mehr da?” (Pia Werfel)
22. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K.384 / Act 2 – “Welche Wonne, welche Lust” (Norma Burrowes)
Vienna, May 29, 1782 (Mozart was 26)

I can’t believe I’m going to type these words: I look forward to hearing Part II tomorrow.

Wow.

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