Did you know that nearly half of the Austrian-born Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 22 operas were composed when he was a teenager? And his first was composed at the astonishingly young age of 11!
His father, Leopold Mozart seized on the opportunities to show off his genius son and toted him and his older sister Nannerl all over Europe. One of his posters in England said:
‘To all lovers of sciences: The greatest prodigy that Europe, or that even Human Nature has to boast of is, without contradiction, the little German boy Wolfgang Mozart.’
But by the time Mozart settled in Vienna in 1781 he was no longer a child prodigy and he sustained himself by writing operas.
Fortunately, Mozart was always ahead of the game and according to opera analyst David Cairns, he had:
‘an extraordinary capacity…for seizing on and assimilating whatever in a newly encountered style was most useful to him.‘
Around this time he wrote his exotic, comic-rescue opera, The Abduction from the Seraglio (pictured below). Packed with great tunes, trendy Turkish-sounding effects and a wacky story as well as harems, exotica and great escape scenes the Viennese audiences were enthralled.
But this opera had something else, too: it was in German — the language of the people for whom it was written — rather than in Italian, like most operas. Mozart believed in communicating directly to the people, and he was supported by the emperor of Austria-Hungary, Joseph II.
It was at the premiere of this opera that the probably inaccurate anecdote was born in which the Emperor – who had commissioned the opera from Mozart – complained: ‘That is too fine for my ears – there are too many notes.’ To which Mozart replied: ‘There are just as many notes as there should be.’
To Mozart it all seemed to come so naturally. He also had a knack for picking the right plays to turn into operas, whether it was Beaumarchais’ hilarious play The Marriage of Figaro or the sleazy tale of Don Giovanni, it usually resulted in a smash hit.
His collaboration with Lorenzo da Ponte – his ‘true phoenix’ – was certainly part of his success from 1786. Their third opera – and Bath opera’s next production – Così fan tutte was as much of a sure fire hit 250 years ago as it is today.
Mozart’s 22 operas connect audiences with emotions like love, hate, joy, pain and indifference like no other musical dramas. And what is more, many of the topics and characters of Mozart operas are timeless.
Don’t miss Mozart’s Così fan tutte this summer
12 & 13 July, 7.30pm
Rondo Theatre, St. Saviours Rd, Bath BA1 6RT
Tickets: 0333 666 3366