“Osmin's Rage Aria" A Talk with Nathan Martin

5:00 pm on Tuesday, April 30, 2019
855 Commonwealth Ave
Room 165
A strange thing happens on p. 118 of Edward Said’s Orientalism (1979). One hundred some odd pages into that book’s pointed indictment of Western attitudes towards Islam, Mozart appears briefly on the docket—only to be granted instant clemency on that grounds that “The Abduction from the Seraglio locate[s] a particularly magnanimous form of humanity in the east.” Yet the Pasha, as that opera’s other characters never tire of pointing out, is an expatriate European whose final act of mercy is explicitly framed in terms of parochially Christian charity. The opera’s only Muslim character, Osmin, serves as a dramatic foil for the Pasha: for Osmin’s defining attribute is his rage, which the opera insists makes him congenitally incapable of mercy. My paper examines how Mozart’s music works in conjunction with Stephanie’s libretto to characterize Osmin’s rage.