Since the Late Medieval Period, the Ottoman Empire and the European states have periodically been engaged in political and military conflict. Due to the vast dominion of the Ottoman Empire along with their acquisition of Constantinople, which undermined Christian influence in the east, many Europeans viewed the Ottomans as barbaric and uncivilized. Yet along with their political fear of the Ottoman Empire, many people in the European states began to show an interest in their contrasting culture. This fashionable interest in the Ottoman Empire significantly increased after the Ottomans failed to capture the city of Vienna in 1683. This event diminished the imposing threat posed by the Ottoman Empire which in turn altered the perspective of Europeans from fear of military domination to interest in exotic culture.
As a result, various aspects of the Ottoman Empire culture have directly affected the culture of the European States. As a part of peaked interest, a fashion trend developed in the European states known as turquerie. This fashion imitated elements of Turkish culture to as opposed to incorporating authentic Turkish customs and traditions. Turquerie was furthermore perpetuated by the Franco-Ottoman alliance between King Francis I and the Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. While, increased diplomacy and activity among trade routes did increase transnational distribution of Turkish goods, it did not necessarily generate a mutual respect for each other.
While Turkish goods and products were enjoyed and consumed by Western European populations, turquiere was utilized as comedic device by none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In his opera Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, a Turkish character by the name of Osmin is depicted as a mindless buffoon who aimlessly conceives to kill a man using illogical methods while an imitated Turkish Janissary band march is played by the orchestra. While Mozart is well renowned for integrating comedic elements in his musical style, the use of turquerie in his opera may be satirical in nature as opposed to purely parodic. Despite the turquerie presence in Mozart’s works, he once described traditional Turkish music as “offensive to the ears,” which was an opinion shared by the rest of Europe as well. Particularly, the Austrians did favor the Ottomans after their failed attempt to lay siege to Vienna. As a composer of the Viennese School and premiering his opera in Vienna, it is safe to assume that Mozart’s political views of the Ottoman Empire were influenced by the political climate of his surroundings.
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