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Don Juan Archiv Wien International Symposia
Vienna and Istanbul 2011

The Turkish Subject in Ballett and Dance
from the Sixteenth Century to the Time of Christoph W. Gluck (1714-1787)

The historical importance of the Ottoman Empire’s presence in Europe is highlighted by its frequent appearance in theatre. The aim of the annual symposia entitled Ottoman Empire and European Theatre, alternately hosted in Vienna and Istanbul, is to explore, on the one hand, the various performative expressions of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Turkish/Ottoman culture and diplomacy on European theatre stages, and on the other hand, the appearance of European theatre and opera in the Ottoman Empire, and the Ottoman attitude towards Europe.
Don Juan Archiv Wien invites you to submit abstracts and participate in the Ottoman Empire and European Theatre symposia by sharing your scholarship and achievements in the fields of theatre, music, history, cultural and performance studies. The pair of symposia in 2011 will follow in the footsteps of conferences in 2008, which marked the 200th anniversary of Sultan Selim III’s death and was entitled ‘The Age of Sultan Selim III and Mozart (1756-1808)’; in 2009, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Joseph Haydn’s death, ‘The Time of Joseph Haydn: From Sultan Mahmud I to Mahmud II (r.1730-1839)’; and in 2010 on the 200th anniversary of Lord Byron’s visit to Constantinople, ‘Seraglios and Harems’.
The 2011 conferences will take place on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Gasparo Angiolini and Christoph W. Gluck’s ballet-pantomime Don Juan ou le festin de pierre, and

The Turkish Subject in Ballet and Dance
from the Sixteenth Century to the Time of Christoph W. Gluck (1714-1787)
on the occasion of the 250th year jubilee of his Don Juan ou le festin de pierre and Le cadi dupé (Vienna 1761)

In France and Italy the first ‘Turkish’ ballets were staged in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and included such productions as Ballet du Serail (Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 1598), Ballet des Janissaires (Paris?, 1604), Ballet de Monseigneur le Duc de Vendosme (Paris, 1610), and Ballo di Donne Turche. Insieme con i loro consorti di schiavi fatti liberi (by Marco da Gagliano, 1582-1643; Florence, Palazzo Pitti, 1614). These show the early popularity of the subject, but the big wave of ‘Oriental’ ballets was initiated by Jean Baptiste Molière (1622-1673) with the comédie-ballet Le bourgeois gentilhomme that premiered October 14, 1670, at the Château de Chambord at the court of Louis XIV (r.1643-1715). The ballet’s closing music (entitled ‘Ballet des Nations’) was composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) and maître de danse was Pierre Beauchamp (1631-1705).
With its ‘Turkish’ dance and its splendid costumes by Laurent chevalier d’Arvieux (1635-1702), who was engaged as advisor and who himself had been in the Ottoman Empire as envoyé extraordinaire in Constantinople and in Tunis, and as consul in Alger (1674-1675) and Aleppo (1679-1686), French Turquerie on stage reached its first great height.

About three decades later, on October 24, 1697, the Opéra-ballet L’ Europe galante by Antoine Houdar de la Motte (1672-1731) and André Campra (1660-1744) was performed in Paris; it ends with a ‘Turkish’ entrée, La Turquie. The choreographer of this work, Louis Dupré (c.1690-1774), was inspired by Le bourgeois gentilhomme, and the work is regarded to have established the new form of Opéra-ballet.

Building on this subject, ‘Le Turc généreux’, the first act of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s (1683-1764) ballet héroique Les Indes galantes (libretto by Louis Fuzelier [1672/74-1752]), seems to be influenced by Campra’s Turkish concept. The work premiered in Paris on August 23, 1735.

The Turkish theme was indeed a very influential topic on European ballet stages throughout the eighteenth century. On April 26, 1758, Franz Anton Hilverding’s (1710-1768) pantomime ballet Le Turc généreux had its premiere in the Hofburgtheater in Vienna. Of this performance there exists a famous copper-plate engraving of Bernardo Bellotto (1721-1780), one of the few existing pictorial representations of the Viennese theatre of that time. The ballet was produced in honour of an Ottoman envoy who came to the Habsburg capital to proclaim the new era of Sultan Mustafa III (r.1757-1774). The composer of this ballet was Joseph Starzer, whose compositions were also used in Milan in 1773 for parts of Le gelosie del serraglio, a ballet performed as entre-acts of Lucio Silla by Giovanni de Gamerra (1742-1803) with music by W. A. Mozart ([1756-1791], KV 135).
Christoph W. Gluck (1714-1787) was not only an opera-reformer, but the composer of the reformist ballet Don Juan ou Le festin de pierre, which had its premiere in Vienna 250 years ago, on October 17, 1761, almost a hundred years after Molière’s Dom Juan in 1665.  Gluck’s ballet qualifies as the first ‘ballet d’action’ in music history, as it has a continuous plot. Gluck also created operas and ballet-music with Turkish-oriental subjects, the most well known of which are Le cadi dupé (premiere: Vienna, December 8, 1761; libretto by Pierre-René Lemonnier [1731-1796]) and La rencontre imprévue (premiere: Vienna, January 7, 1764; libretto by Louis Hurtaut Dancourt [c.1725-1801], after Les pèlerins de la Mecque [Paris 1726] by Alain René Lesage [1668-1747] and Jacques-Philippe d’Orneval [+ 1766]).

Most influential choreographers of the eighteenth century had ‘Turkish’ ballets in their repertoire. Especially outstanding in this respect is Gasparo Angiolini (1731-1803), who put on stage Gluck’s Don Juan and the ballet La rencontre imprévue ou les pélerins de la Mecque, as well as, with his own music, another ‘Turkish’ ballet, (Il) Solimano (also titled Solimano II and Solimano II o La francese trionfante [Milan, 1773, 1774 and 1782]). Likewise notable as a choreographer of ‘Turkish’ ballets is Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), whose oeuvre includes Les Jalousies, ou La fête du sérail (Lyon, 1758), L’amour corsaire (Lyon,1759), Les cinq Sultanes (Vienna, 1771), and La Gelosie del Seraglio (Vienna, 1772).
Many travelling theatre troupes also had ballets with popular Turkish subjects in their repertoires, including Felix von Kurtz and his troupe who, from 1741 onwards, performed various Türken- und See-Räuber Ballette ; Filippo Nicolini’s troupe, Teatro dell’Opera Pantomima (Harlequin als ein Sklav; Intermezzo: Li birbi; ein türkisches Ballet, performed May 12, 1748 in Leipzig); Koch’s troupe (Der Sultan im Serail, 1759; Sclaven-Ballet, 1759; and German versions of Molière’s Le Sicilien, ou L’amour peintre and Le bourgeois gentilhomme); and the Ackermann’sche Gesellschaft in Germany (Le grand Ballet pantomime de 24 Personnes, Nommé: LE SERAIL DU GRAND TURC. Ein grosses pantomimisches Ballet von 24 Personen, betitult: Das Serail des Groß=Sultans. Mit vollkommener türkischer Musik, und mit vielen Tänzen von den Weibern im Serail, von Türken, Sklaven, Mohren ec. untermischt, performed, as playbills show, on June 18, 1764, in Göttingen).  These are only a few examples of the wide variety of ballets and dances that treated Turkish-oriental subjects in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The aim of the symposia in Vienna and Istanbul in 2011 is to discuss the topic from a historical perspective, to present new findings, and to introduce the latest scholarly achievements in the field.

We especially welcome interdisciplinary contributions from dance researchers, theatre scholars, art historians, musicologists, and historians of culture.



Key words: dance research, theatre studies, history of art, musicology, ballet, dance, Turquerie, Turkish subject, exotism, Orientalism.

Don Juan Archiv Wien, in cooperation with the UNESCO International Theatre Institute in Vienna, and the Austrian Cultural Forum in Istanbul.

Conference Convenors: Michael Hüttler, Suna Suner, H. E. Weidinger

Dates and Venues

  • Vienna, Austria: April 29-30, 2011, at the UNESCO ITI, Türkenstraße 19, A-1090 Vienna

Istanbul, Turkey: June 09-10, 2011, at the Austrian Cultural Forum, Yeniköy, TR-34464 Istanbul

For examples of topics addressed at the 2008, 2009 and 2010 symposia, see

Paper Proposals
Scholars and artists who wish to present papers are invited to submit proposals containing the following:

a one-page abstract of the proposed paper naming the presenter(s);contact information, including name, title, position, university or institutional affiliation, postal address, telephone, fax, and email; anda 75-100-word bio of the presenter(s), including recent publications.


Please submit proposals to:



The official language of the symposia is English. Each presentation should last thirty minutes (plus fifteen minutes for discussion). Papers presented will be published subsequently in a print volume.

Deadline for submission of proposals: November 30, 2010

For updated programme and further information please contact:
Don Juan Archiv Wien
Goethegasse 1, A-1010 Vienna; phone: +43-1-2365605 fax: +43-1-2365605-25
e-mail: symposium(at)donjuanarchiv(dot)at 





Letztes Update: 06.12.2012
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