Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Mark Anson-Cartwright

Committee Members

Stephen Blum

Scott Burnham

Allan Atlas

Subject Categories

Musicology | Music Theory


Opera, Operatic Analysis, Singspiel, Libretto, Rhythm, Text-Setting


It has long been recognized that the music of Mozart’s Singspiels bears more dramatic weight than that of most eighteenth-century German comic operas. Yet this view arises from a body of scholarship that heavily privileges Die Zauberflöte at the expense of Mozart’s other German-language operatic works, including Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782), which constituted Mozart’s first big statement in Vienna and became easily the most popular of his operas during his lifetime. This is an analytical study of Mozart’s Entführung that examines form, phrase rhythm, and text-setting as agents of musical dramaturgy throughout the score. More specifically, it demonstrates how Mozart uses those musical dimensions towards characterization and in the depiction of the opera’s most confrontational interactions.

Chapters 1 and 2 situate the Entführung in the greater contexts of the Viennese Singspiel and eighteenth-century comic opera. Chapter 1 also outlines the evolution of the Entführung libretto, and provides an overview of the compositional order based on the Mozart correspondence and recent research. Chapter 3 surveys prosody and text-setting across all three acts to establish that Mozart and his libretto adaptor, Gottlieb Stephanie, use poetic meter to delineate their characters. Mozart also regularly calls upon certain rhythmic patterns to reflect recurring emotions and actions, including suffering, moments of hesitation, and displays of Turkish identity.

Analyses of “Martern aller Arten” and “Wenn der Freude Thränen fliessen” occupy Chapters 4 and 5, respectively. A discussion of form is included in both chapters, with special attention paid to the dramatic significance of Mozart’s structures. In Konstanze’s aria, Mozart writes conflicting metrical patterns and metrical reinterpretations to depict her struggle and strength. In Belmonte’s number, the reappearance of distinctive rhythmic patterns from his first-act arias helps to individualize his musical language. Two versions of this aria are assessed.

Chapter 6 explores how Mozart uses irregular phrasing and phrase rhythm to depict antagonism. Most notably, unpredictable phrase lengths, suffixes, and the delayed establishment of hypermetric patterns represent Osmin’s volatility throughout his solo and ensemble numbers. Chapter 7 features an analysis of the Act II Quartet, focusing on the opening measures of the “jealousy episode,” in which Belmonte and Pedrillo begin to admit they harbor doubts about the women’s fidelity. Mozart’s periodic structures, repetitive text-setting, and fluid phrase rhythm simultaneously accommodate the protracted pace at which the men accuse their partners, and the increasingly urgent retorts of the curious women.

The conclusion of this study reflects upon Mozart’s strategic use of form, phrase rhythm, and text-setting to create nuanced characters and strikingly realistic interactions, and argues that the Entführung deserves a more prominent place in the broader discussion of Mozart’s musical dramaturgy.