ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

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ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by Lance » Sat Jun 06, 2009 11:15 pm

Mozart in Prague
By Agnes Selby

Mozart was invited to Prague to conduct The Marriage of Figaro. He and his wife, Constanze, both still in mourning for their baby son, who died on November 15, 1786. They left Vienna on January 8, 1787 for Prague where they stayed for one month. The Mozarts travelled through the wintry countryside in a comfortable coach drawn by three post horses. Their companions on this journey were Constanze’s future brother-in-law, Franz Hofer and the clarinetist Anton Stadler. Mozart’s servant, Joseph and even their little dog, Guckerl came along on this journey. In Prague, the Mozarts were overwhelmed with kindness and hospitality. Count Thun would not allow them to stay at an inn and installed them in his palace. Mozart presented the citizens of Prague with a newly finished symphony which is knows as the “Prague” Symphony. He was feted everywhere he went. On every corner, nothing but music from Figaro was played, nor was anything else whistled in the streets but the arias from Figaro. Mozart gave one concert which netted him 1,000 florins and he conducted The Marriage of Figaro possibly twice to enthusiastic applause. As a consequence of his success, he returned to Vienna with a commission for an opera to be written especially for Prague.

The commissioned opera was Don Giovanni. The Mozarts once again left Vienna for Prague on October 1, 1787 travelling alone, without a retinue of friends and servants. It was a risky journey for Constanze, who was seven months pregnant. Mozart had not completed the score of Don Giovanni for the premiere scheduled for October 14. The overture had not been written and as Mozart had not yet heard the singers, many adjustments had to be made to suit their voices. As the opera’s premiere was to coincide with the visit to Prague of the Archduchess Maria Theresa and Prince Anton of Saxony during their honeymoon, there was considerable pressure to get the show on the road.
Da Ponte, the opera’s librettist, arrived in Prague and worked with Mozart to complete the opera. Stories abound concerning the completion of Don Giovanni. Most of them are not supported by documentary evidence, but some, allegedly told by Constanze, are worth repeating. Wolfgang had asked Constanze to sit with him late into the night and, as was their custom, to talk to him while he composed the overture. According to Constanze, Wolfgang fell asleep and she did not have the heart to wake him. He slept till the morning and then, refreshed, completed the overture in time for the copyists to collect the work later that morning.

Another episode concerns Josephine Duschek, the famous Bohemian opera singer, who entertained the Mozarts at her Villa Bertramka. Mozart had promised to compose a concert aria for her and as this was not forthcoming, the good lady locked Mozart in a room and would not let him out until the composition was finished. Mozart agreed to compose the aria Bella mia Fiamma, adio, as long as she promised to sing it flawlessly on sight. He made some passages so hellishly difficult that much fun was derived from Josephine’s efforts to sing it. Thus, it would seem that the Mozarts enjoyed their stay in Prague. A few years later, Constanze returned the Duscheks’ kindness by lending them mortgage money on their Villa Bertramka just in time to prevent it from being repossessed by the lenders. Villa Bertramka is today considered a memorial to Mozart and weekly concerts are held on the premises.

The Bohemians believed that their understanding of Mozart and of his music was superior to that of the Viennese audiences. Despite this, however, Mozart was subjected to unexpected tensions. His letters to his friend in Vienna, Baron Gottfried von Jacquin, reveal the problems he encountered but he seems to have dealt with them with good humour. Mozart found that the orchestra was not prepared sufficiently to tackle a major work like Don Giovanni and considered the musicians inferior to those in Vienna. As well, the singers were at war, jealous of the number of arias each was given to sing and new arias had to be composed to cater to their fragile egos.

Mozart was unable to complete the opera by the scheduled date, and The Marriage of Figaro was scheduled to be performed instead. This too came at a price as some of the titled ladies objected to the opera, finding it unsuitable for a new bride. Despite all these problems, the honeymooning royal couple thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Mozart’s last journey to Prague took place in September 1791. In the middle of July Mozart received a commission to compose the opera La Clemenza di Tito for the coronation of Leopold II as King of the Bohemians in Prague. Despite Mozart’s popularity in Prague, he was not the first choice of the Opera House director, Guardasoni to compose this opera. It was only after the commission was rejected by Antonio Salieri that Guardasoni turned to Mozart who accepted the commission. According to his biographer, Niemetschek, Mozart completed this opera in a period of eighteen days. He was paid 1,150 gulden plus expenses.

Constanze had given birth to their last child, Franz Xaver, on July 26, 1791, but barely six weeks after the birth of the baby, she was travelling with Mozart to Prague. Mozart’s need of her on this journey must have been overwhelming. We know nothing of Mozart’s state of mind at this time. He was certainly overworked and deeply troubled financially. There was the possibility of a legal action which Count Lichnowsky threatened to take against him for unpaid gambling losses and ill health may have been troubling him as well. Niemetschek in his Mozart biography reports that Mozart became ill in Prague.

The city of Prague, however, was echoing once again with Mozart’s music. Not only did Guardasoni premiere the commissioned opera, La Clemensa di Tito to celebrate Leopold II’s coronation but The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni were also performed by popular request.

One of the greatest contemporary accolades paid to Mozart came from a Saxon Nobleman, Franz Alexander von Kleist, when he published his memoirs in 1792. He recalled the delight he experienced when hearing the beautiful harmonies of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He felt that Mozart’s greatness could not be compared to either riches or inherited titles. “At that particular moment”, he wrote, “I would have preferred to be Mozart rather than the Emperor of Austria”.
Mozart died during the same year on 5th December, 1791.

© Agnes Selby, 2009

Agnes Selby
Author of Constanze Mozart's biography
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Re: ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by Agnes Selby » Sun Jun 07, 2009 7:12 am

Thank you, Lance, for posting this for me.

Regards,
Agnes.

Sylph

Re: ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by Sylph » Sun Jun 07, 2009 7:39 am

Could someone explain... If Agnes Selby is a member of this message board... Why doesn't she post these articles? :? I don't get it.

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Re: ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by Donaldopato » Sun Jun 07, 2009 8:38 am

A fine Sunday AM read, Agnes. Thanks so much!
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. - Albert Einstein

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Re: ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by Lance » Sun Jun 07, 2009 10:42 am

Agnes asks me to do this for her. It goes through an editing process to appear here with bold titles, etc. I am most happy to do this for her.
Sylph wrote:Could someone explain... If Agnes Selby is a member of this message board... Why doesn't she post these articles? :? I don't get it.
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Teresa B
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Re: ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by Teresa B » Sun Jun 07, 2009 10:46 am

Thank you, Agnes, for a great article! (Those divas never change, do they? :lol: )

All the best,
Teresa
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." ~ The Cheshire Cat

Author of the novel "Creating Will"

Sylph

Re: ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by Sylph » Sun Jun 07, 2009 10:50 am

Lance wrote:Agnes asks me to do this for her. It goes through an editing process to appear here with bold titles, etc. I am most happy to do this for her.
Sylph wrote:Could someone explain... If Agnes Selby is a member of this message board... Why doesn't she post these articles? :? I don't get it.
That’s very nice of you! :D[/size]

Agnes Selby
Author of Constanze Mozart's biography
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Location: Australia

Re: ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by Agnes Selby » Sun Jun 07, 2009 4:52 pm

Sylph wrote:
Lance wrote:Agnes asks me to do this for her. It goes through an editing process to appear here with bold titles, etc. I am most happy to do this for her.
Sylph wrote:Could someone explain... If Agnes Selby is a member of this message board... Why doesn't she post these articles? :? I don't get it.
That’s very nice of you! :D[/size]
Indeed it is, Sylph, and I appreciate it greatly. Also, you have
another inapt person who can't handle the computer. There you have it!

Allen
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Re: ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by Allen » Sun Jun 07, 2009 9:35 pm

Agnes

Thanks for the article. Very interesting and enlightening indeed.

Agnes Selby
Author of Constanze Mozart's biography
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Location: Australia

Re: ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by Agnes Selby » Mon Jun 08, 2009 2:58 pm

Dear Teresa, Donald and Allen.

Thank you for liking my little story.

Kind regards,
Agnes.

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Re: ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by lmpower » Wed Jun 10, 2009 6:14 pm

I was already aware of this episode in Mozart's life, but this article added some details to my knowledge. I appreciate this very much. Years ago a professor who was leading a tour of Europe told me there would be a Mozart festival in Prague. He said he couldn't imagine why Prague deserved such a festival. Even at that time I knew that Prague was more deserving than Salzburg or Vienna of the honor.

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Re: ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by Niki » Wed Jun 10, 2009 7:53 pm

Thanks Agnes.
As always very informative, very interesting.

Agnes Selby
Author of Constanze Mozart's biography
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Location: Australia

Re: ARTICLE: Mozart in Prague by Agnes Selby

Post by Agnes Selby » Wed Jun 10, 2009 8:51 pm

Thank you Impower and as always, thank you Nikki for your support.

Regards,
Agnes.

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