Friday, July 16, 2010

"Vivat Bacchus" from Mozart's "The Abduction from the Seraglio"

On this day in 1782, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera The Abduction from the Seraglio debuted at the Burgtheater in Vienna; with a libretto by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner and adaptations by Gottlieb Stephanie, the work was commissioned by Emperor Joseph II - possibly to celebrate the recent elimination of the military threat once posed to Austria by the Ottoman Empire.

Mozart's Islamic-themed three-act singspiel has become the stuff of pop culture lore chiefly because an early biographer of his named Franz Xaver Niemetschek recorded that the Emperor was displeased with the work, claiming that it contained 'too many notes'. Much hilarity was made of this anecdote in Peter Shaffer's 1979 play - as well as in MiloŇ° Forman's 1984 film Amadeus, which was based on it; as with much of that film, though, the story's accuracy is in doubt. Still, it gave Tom Hulce yet another opportunity to ham it up as the brat genius, even at the expense of philistinizing the Emperor, as played by Jeffrey Jones. Besides which, Mozart's apparent response - 'There are just as many notes as there should be' just isn't half as funny as Hulce's Python-esque 'Too many notes!' rant.

Here we see an aria from the opera, Vivat Bacchus, as performed by Kurt Rydl (as Osmin) and Heinz Zednik (as Pedrillo) at the Salzburg Festival in 1988. It's not the greatest quality video, but it's the only one I could find with subtitles, so it's the one I went with since, when it comes to opera, I need all the help I can get...
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