Live performance from Aix-en-Provence, 1954
Teresa Stich-Randall - Konstanze
Nicolai Gedda - Belmonte
Carmen Prietto - Blonde
Michel Sénéchal - Pedrillo
Raphael Arië - Osmin
ACT I. Turkey, 1700s. Pasha Selim has bought three Europeans from pirates - Constanze, a Spanish woman of good family; Blonde, her English maid; and Pedrillo, servant of Constanze's fiancé, Belmonte. Belmonte has traced them to a seaside palace, where Constanze has become the pasha's favorite and Pedrillo the gardener. Blonde has been given as a gift by the pasha to his overseer, Osmin. Belmonte's first encounter is with Osmin, who acts polite until Belmonte mentions Pedrillo, the custodian's rival for Blonde. He drives Belmonte away and then rails at Pedrillo, who has come in hopes of making peace with him. Belmonte returns to find his former servant, who tells him the pasha loves Constanze but will not force himself on her. Pedrillo will try to arrange a meeting between Constanze and Belmonte and an escape by boat with Blonde, if they can get past Osmin. In hiding, Belmonte yearns for Constanze, who soon appears with Pasha Selim. When the pasha asks her why she is always depressed by his courtship of her, Constanze replies she cannot forget her love for her fiancé from whom she was separated. After she leaves, Pedrillo introduces Belmonte to the pasha as a promising young architect. Selim welcomes him and, departing, arranges a conference for the next day. Osmin bars the way when Belmonte and Pedrillo try to enter the palace, but he is confused easily, and the two foreigners march him around in circles. Dizzy, Osmin does not notice they have gained access.
ACT II. In a garden, Blonde confounds Osmin with her cleverness and faces him down when he threatens her. Constanze finds Blonde and complains of her sad state, which does not improve when the pasha again asks her to marry him. She proudly refuses, preferring torture, even death. When they have gone, Blonde and Pedrillo dance into the garden, discussing their plan of escape: they will get Osmin drunk, and all four lovers will leave on Belmonte's ship. Later, Pedrillo goes about his business, finding Osmin cooperative, though drinking wine is against the Moslem religion. Thoroughly inebriated, the fat man weaves away with the bottle, leaving the coast clear for Belmonte to meet Constanze. Their reunion is shared by Blonde and Pedrillo.
ACT III. Just before midnight, Pedrillo places a ladder against the ladies' window and sings a serenade, the signal for escape. But he wakes Osmin, who is not too hung over to realize what is going on and takes them all to the pasha, who is angry. Belmonte suggests the pasha collect a handsome ransom from his wealthy family, the Lostados. At this, the pasha realizes that Belmonte is the son of an old enemy, the man who exiled him from his own country. But eventually he decides that rather than take blood for blood he will repay evil with good, freeing Constanze and Belmonte, even Blonde and Pedrillo. This does not sit well with Osmin, who will lose Blonde, but he is promised other rewards. The grateful lovers praise their benefactor as they prepare to set sail.