Monday, December 8, 2014

7 January - Amadeus

First of all my huge thanks to you all for your very very generous gift voucher - I am looking forward very much to my meal at the Brasserie des Etangs Mellaerts (and Tim is delighted that it's on a tram route - rather presumptious of him to think I'll take him along as well!!!)

I really do get a great deal of pleasure from the group, so I think that next year we need to have a serious conversation about the fact that if there's to be a gift then I should contribute too! 

And as I say repeatedly - I really do think Rina has the hardest job of all!

But on to January - and we'll be reading Amadeus by Peter Shaffer.

You will need to bring your imagination with you as this highly acclaimed, and highly fictionalised, play about the lives of Mozart and Antoino Salieri relies heavily on staging effects and music when performed professionally. Unless one of you would be happy to provide the music??

The origins of the play are from a supposed rivalry between Salieri and Mozart.  In the 1780s while Mozart lived and worked in Vienna, he and his father Leopold wrote in their letters that several "cabals" of Italians led by Salieri were actively putting obstacles in the way of Mozart's obtaining certain posts or staging his operas.  For example, Mozart wrote to his father in May 1783 about Salieri and Lorenzo Da Ponte, the court poet: "You know those Italian gentlemen; they are very nice to your face! Enough, we all know about them. And if [Da Ponte] is in league with Salieri, I'll never get a text from him, and I would love to show here what I can really do with an Italian opera." Decades after Mozart's death, a rumour began to circulate that Mozart had been poisoned by Salieri. These rumors then made their way into popular culture. The biographer Alexander Wheelock Thayer  believes that Mozart's rivalry with Salieri could have originated with an incident in 1781 when Mozart applied to be the music teacher of Princess Elisabeth of Wuttemberg,   and Salieri was selected instead because of his reputation as a singing teacher. In the following year Mozart once again failed to be selected as the Princess's piano teacher.  However, even with Mozart and Salieri being rivals for certain jobs, there is very little evidence that the relationship between the two composers was at all acrimonious beyond this, especially after 1785 or so when Mozart had become established in Vienna. Rather, they appeared to usually see each other as friends and colleagues and supported each other's work. For example, when Salieri was appointed Kapellmeister in 1788 he revived Figaro instead of bringing out a new opera of his own; and when he went to the coronation festivities for Leopold II in 1790 he had no fewer than three Mozart masses in his luggage. Salieri and Mozart even composed a cantata for voice and piano together, called Per la ricuperata salute di Ophelia.

Amadeus was first performed in 1979, and in 1981 won the Tony Award for Best Play and subsequently became a 1984 Academy Award winning film: the cast included Simon Callow in the role of  Emanuel Schikaneder, although he had played the title role on the London stage.

There are a number of historical characters, and many of them are new to me - so my apologies to those of you with a better working knowledge of musical history if I spell out who some of these people are!

These notes are lifted from Wikipedia - where  you will find out far more about these people if you wish to!

Vienna, 1758.
Painting by Giovanni Canaletto
Antonio Salieri

(18 August 1750 – 7 May 1825) An Italian classical composer, conductor and teacher who spent his adult life and career as a subject of the Habsburg Monarchy. He was a pivotal figure in the development of late 18th-century opera and a cosmopolitan composer who wrote operas in three languages. Salieri helped to develop and shape many of the features of operatic compositional vocabulary and his music was a powerful influence on contemporary composers. Appointed the director of the Italian opera by the Habsburg court, a post he held from 1774 to 1792, Salieri dominated Italian language opera in Vienna. During his career he also spent time writing works for opera houses in Venice, Rome, and Paris. 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

(7 January 1756 – 5 December 1791).  Baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem which was largely unfinished at the time of his death, having composed over 600 workds of symphonic, concert, chamber, operatic and choral music.  He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.

Constanze Weber

(5 January 1762 – 6 March 1842)  Constanze Weber was born into a musical family.  Her father Fridolin Weber worked as a double bass player, prompter and music copyist.  Constanze had three sisters: all were trained as singers, and Josepha and Aloysia both went on to distinguished musical careers, performing later on in the premieres of a number of Mozart's works. During most of Constanze's upbringing, the family lived in her mother's hometown of Mannheim, an important musical center of the time. The 21-year-old Mozart visited Mannheim in 1777 on a job-hunting tour and developed a close relationship with the Weber family. He fell in love, not with the 15-year-old Constanze, but with Aloysia. While Mozart was in Paris, Aloysia obtained a position as a singer in Munich, and the family accompanied her there. She rejected Mozart when he passed through Munich on his way back to Salzburg. By the time Mozart moved to Vienna in 1781, Aloysia had married and her husband, Joseph Lange, agreed to help Cäcilia Weber with an annual stipend, and she took in boarders to make ends meet. 

On first arriving in Vienna on 16 March 1781, Mozart stayed at the house of the Teutonic Order with the staff of his patron, Archbishop Colloredo.  In May, he "was obliged to leave," and chose to board in the Weber household, originally intending "to stay there only a week."  After a while, it became apparent to Cäcilia Weber that Mozart was courting Constanze, now 19, and in the interest of propriety, she requested that he leave. The courtship continued, not entirely smoothly. Surviving correspondence indicates that Mozart and Constanze briefly broke up in April 1782, over an episode involving jealousy (Constanze had permitted another young man to measure her calves in a parlor game). Mozart also faced a very difficult task getting his father's permission for the marriage.  The marriage finally took place in an atmosphere of crisis, and it has been suggested that eventually Constanze moved in with Mozart, which would have placed her in disgrace by the mores of the time.  Mozart wrote to Leopold on 31 July 1782, "All the good and well-intentioned advice you have sent fails to address the case of a man who has already gone so far with a maiden. Further postponement is out of the question." The biographer Heartz relates, "Constanze's sister Sophie had tearfully declared that her mother would send the police after Constanze if she did not return home (presumably from Mozart's apartment)." On 4 August, Mozart wrote to Baroness von Waldstätten, asking "Can the police here enter anyone's house in this way? Perhaps it is only a ruse of Madame Weber to get her daughter back. If not, I know no better remedy than to marry Constanze tomorrow morning or if possible today."  The marriage did indeed take place that day. In the marriage contract, Constanze "assigns to her bridegroom five hundred gulden which [...] the latter has promised to augment with one thousand gulden", with the total "to pass to the survivor". Further, all joint acquisitions during the marriage were to remain the common property of both. A day after the marriage took place, the consent of Wolfgang's father arrived in the mail. The couple had six children, of whom four did not survive infancy.

Joseph II, Emperor of Austria (13 March 1741 – 20 February 1790)

Count Johann Kilian Von Strack:  Groom of the Imperial Chamber

Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg: Director of the Imperial Opera

Baron Gottfried van Swieten: Prefect of the Imperial Library

Two Venticelli:  "Little Winds" Purveyors of information, gossip and rumour

Major Domo

There are also a number of silent parts:

Teresa Salieri:  Wife of Salieri

Katherina Cavalieri:  Salieri's pupil

Kapellmeister Bonno  

Salieri's Valet and Cook



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