Ottoman Power and Operatic Emotions on the European Stage from the Siege of Vienna to the Age of Napoleon

CHAPTER FOUR:  The Turkish Subjects of Gluck and Haydn: Comic Opera in War and Peace

Janissary Band, sample of Ottoman “mehter” music as recreated at the Military Museum in Istanbul: 


Gluck, Les pèlerins de la Mecque, ou La rencontre imprévue (Vienna, 1764)
(The Pilgrims of Mecca, or The Unexpected Encounter)
The Kalender introduces himself with the comical aria “Castagno castagna,” nonsense phrases suggestive of chestnuts, composed in a “Turkish” style of musical repetitions and oscillations; the Kalender explains that this is how he and his Muslim brothers beg for alms:

         Castagno, castagna, pista-fanache.
         Rimagno, rimagna, mousti-limache.
         Quic, billic, loulougagne.

Haydn, L’incontro improvviso (Esterháza, 1775)
Haydn’s parallel setting of “Castagno castagna” for his own operatic treatment of the same subject in L’incontro improvviso:


Haydn, L’incontro improvviso (Esterháza, 1775)
Haydn’s further developed the Kalender’s comical character, relishing the hypocrisy of a religious mendicant life.  While ostensibly satirizing Islamic religion in the Ottoman empire, in fact Haydn intended to mock the Roman Catholic religious orders in the Habsburg monarchy.   
Performed by bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff on his CD of Haydn arias.

Noi pariamo santarelli,                       We appear to be saints,
e truffiamo quest’e quelli,                  and we trick everyone,
dimostrando povertà.                         demonstrating poverty.
Ma la borsa intanto avanza,                But the purse meanwhile advances,
e mangiamo in abbondanza,               and we eat in abundance,
e beviamo, come va.                           and we drink, as it goes


Haydn, Lo Speziale (The Apothecary), Esterháza 1768,

Presented in the year of the outbreak of the Russian-Ottoman war— Volpino in Turkish disguise sings a nonsense aria with “Turkish” rhythms and oscillations (composed for a female singer in male costume, here French soprano Patricia Petibon); Haydn particularly enjoyed the rhythmic play of “Constantinupola, nupola nupola nupola!”  The concluding syllables—dadl dadl didl didl dum— suggested a Central European Gypsy or Jewish accent within the broadly Turkish musical comedy.

Salamelica, Semprugna cara.             Salam alaikum, Sempronio dear.
Constantinupola,                               Constantinople,
nupola nupola nupola!                      nupola nupola nupola!    
Sempre cantara, sempre ballara,       Always sing, always dance,
Dadl dadl dadl dadl dara,                  Dadl dadl dadl dadl dara,
Dei didl dum,                                    Dei didl dum,
Da didl didl dum.                               Da didl didl dum.