337 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970
an Early Music Collective
Othello in the Seraglio:
The Tragedy of Sümbül the Black Eunuch–A coffee house opera
It is the early 17th century in Istanbul, at Topkapi Palace. Sümbül, the title character, is a black eunuch, an African emasculated as a slave, who has risen to a position of wealth and power overseeing the harem. In old age, he is rewarded with freedom by the Sultan. In gratitude, he purchases a gift for his former master: a beautiful European slave girl. But he falls in love with her, and the ensuing drama of devotion and jealousy is intensified by the crossing of racial and religious boundaries. The opera is set in an intimate Istanbul coffee house of the period, with a storyteller, four masked singing roles, and an ensemble of ten specialists in Turkish and early European instruments and vocal styles.
The text draws upon a web of Mediterranean tales, from Shakespeare’s Othello and its Italian predecessor, to a Turkish novel of the 1930s about Sümbül. The music is from 16th-and 17th-century Ottoman and European sources, with improvisations in Turkish and European styles, and new music by Mehmet Ali Sanlikol. There is a truly splendid array of instruments, some familiar, many exotic.
Presented by The Cambridge Society for Early Music.