Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Premiere Date: Tuesday, July 16, 1782
Belmonte, a young Spanish nobleman, is searching for his beloved Constanze. She, her maid Blonde and Belmonte’s servant, Pedrillo, have been captured by pirates. As the opera opens, Belmonte is on the seaside plaza outside the palace of Pasha Selim, where he thinks Constanze is being held captive.
He meets Osmin, the Pasha’s overseer, who confirms that Belmonte has come to the right place, but Osmin also makes it plain that he is not welcome. Osmin is in love with Blonde, but she is in love with Pedrillo who is now serving as the Pasha’s head gardener. After Osmin leaves, Pedrillo finds Belmonte, and the two scheme to rescue the two young women.
Constanze and the Pasha return from a boat ride and are greeted by a chorus of Janissaries (Turkish soldiers). The Pasha has fallen in love with Constanze and bemoans the fact that she has remained cold and refuses to marry him. She still loves Belmonte and sings of her feelings for him. After she leaves to return to the seraglio (the part of an Asian palace where the women of the house live), Pedrillo introduces Belmonte to the Pasha as a visiting architect. Osmin tries to prevent the two men from entering the palace, but they brush him aside.
Osmin keeps trying to force Blonde to love him, but she wants nothing to do with him and tells him so. The Pasha tries to convince Constanze to marry him. He threatens her with torture if she refuses. Constanze replies that she would rather die.
Pedrillo tells Blonde that Belmonte is in the palace and that the two men have arranged to rescue Constanze and her that night. She leaves to tell her mistress, and Pedrillo starts the plan off by trying to convince Osmin to join him in drinking wine. He’s so successful that Osmin staggers off to go to sleep. Belmonte and Constanze are reunited and later joined by Blonde and Pedrillo. Both men express doubts about the faithfulness of the two women, but are soon convinced that they are mistaken. The young women forgive them for their doubts, and the rescue is scheduled for that night.
At midnight, Belmonte and Pedrillo arrive outside the seraglio’s walls with ladders. Belmonte succeeds in rescuing Constanze, but Pedrillo’s singing wakes Osmin, and he intercepts them before Pedrillo and Blonde can escape. Belmonte and Constanze are brought back by palace guards, and Osmin is overjoyed to think that, at last, they are in his power.
When the Pasha arrives to question the prisoners, he discovers that Belmonte’s father is his old enemy. As he thinks about what to do with them, Belmonte and Constanze declare their eternal love for each other, even in the face of torture and possible death.
The Pasha returns. He has decided to be merciful, even after finding out that Belmonte is the son of his enemy. Both young couples are allowed to return to Spain. Osmin is outraged and rushes off the stage. The others express their gratitude to the Pasha. The opera ends as they leave for Spain and the chorus sings of the Pasha’s great generosity.
Courtesy of Washington National Opera