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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Mozart: Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail; Scarlatti: La Dirindina

08/04/2013 1:00 pm
08/04/2013 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

No opera of Mozart's was as successful in his own lifetime as Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail. Immediately after its first run at Vienna's Burgtheater in 1782 it took off for opera houses all over German-speaking Europe and everywhere it went.

"The Abduction from the Seraglio" is the best specimen of a special subgenre of lyric theater in the eighteenth century: the "Turkish" opera. Sometimes comedic, sometimes melodramatic in nature, such operas were based upon a love story or tale of rescue and were set in some exotic location in the Orient. Every composer of any stature in Mozart's time tried his hand at Turkish opera. Over the years I've broadcast recordings of such works by Sammartini, Kraus and Haydn.

Mozart's Turkish piece is also a Singspiel, the then-popular German singing entertainment with spoken dialog. There are plenty of good recordings of The Abduction in circulation. The one I featured on Sunday, October 4, 1992 was on Sony Classical CD's, recorded in Vienna with Bruno Weil conducting the Vienna Symphony and chorus of the Vienna State Opera. It's in our station's classical music record library.

The station has acquired an 18 CD boxed compilation of seven of Mozart's most famous operas, as interpreted by a pioneering conductor in the historically-informed practice of eighteenth century music: John Eliot Gardiner. All the Gardiner interpretations were recorded between 1987-98 in various venues. The one Gardiner made of Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail took place in Henry wood Hall in London in 1991. Gardiner directed the English Baroque Soloists, the period instrument ensemble he founded, and the Monteverdi Choir. In the cast basso profundo Cornelius Hauptmann is featured as Osmin, the comic overseer in the Pasha's palace.

Another subgenre of eighteenth century opera was the intermezzo. It was always short, always some variant of domestic farce. These comic mini-operas were inserted between the long acts of a full-scale Italian opera seria to amuse audiences during intermission. The classic example of the intermezzo is Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona (1733). Domenico Scarlatti also wrote one: La Dirindina, which was probably staged between one of the three acts of his opera seria Ambleto (1715).

The son of the famous opera composer Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico is known to music history as a keyboard virtuoso, but early in his career he wrote a number of lyric theater works. Following Mozart's Turkish opera there should be sufficient time to broadcast the 2012 Sono Luminus recording of La Dirindina, since it runs for a mere half hour. The singers and players of Ars Lyrica of Houston gave this intermezzo and the pastoral cantata Pura nel Sonno the best possible "period" performance, as directed from the harpsichord by Matthew Dirst.