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Contents / Ottoman Palace Theaters

The 19th century was a period of innovation and westernization in the Ottoman Empire when a colossal cultural transformation took place, a transformation that naturally had an impact on the arts of drama and music as well. We are going to speak here of the initiatives of the art-loving sultans and the orchestras, theaters and operas they established in their palaces.

Sultans Selim III, Mahmud II and, especially, Abdülmecid played an important role in the development of the arts of drama and music. Giuseppe Donizetti, brother of the famous opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, was invited to Istanbul during the period of Mahmud II to set up a military orchestra on western lines. This orchestra, which simultaneously functioned as a conservatory where young people of the palace were trained in both music and the stage arts, was called the Muzika-i Hümâyun or Imperial Music School. In other words, today’s Presidential Symphony Orchestra is an institution with a 176-year-old history.

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