Abduction from the Seraglio: A Blind Eye
Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio” was first heard in Vienna in 1782, commissioned by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II to cater to the German-speaking audience of the capital city. Joseph II and Mozart had more in common than just their native tongue. Joseph II championed liberal ideas, equality, and religious freedom, while some experts interpret Mozart's operas as striving to be liberatory. But 1780s Europe was financially entwined with human trafficking, and the ideals of enlightenment and freedom didn’t apply to every human. In “Abduction,” those real-world restrictions — and the ramifications they have for Mozart’s characters — are on full display.
This week on Every Voice with Terrance McKnight: In “Abduction from the Seraglio,” Pasha Selim subjects both European women and men of African descent to servitude within his haram. But their dramatic treatment — which characters get to enjoy escape and victory, and which characters do not — tend to uphold stereotypes of race, class and sex. We hear from the voices of Jennifer Welch Babige as Konstanze and Blonde, Sir Willard White as Osmin, and Nathan Stark as Pasha Selim.
This episode is written, hosted and produced by Terrance McKnight with support from David Norville. The Executive Producer is Tony Phillips. The Executive Producer for WQXR Podcasts is Elizabeth Nonemaker. Our research team includes Ariel Elizabeth Davis, Pranathi Diwakar, Ian George, and Jasmine Ogiste. Sound design and engineering by Sapir Rosenblatt Original music composed by Jeromy Thomas and Ashley Jackson. Special thanks to the Livermore Valley Opera and the Metropolitan Opera for the use of their performances of “Abduction from the Seraglio.”
This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.
A transcript of this episode is available on our website: everyvoicepodcast.org