CHAPTER 48WOLGANG AMADEUS MOZART:
Mozart was fascinated by the magic of the theater.
In all, he composed 20 operas.
- 8 are of the type called Italian opera seria - 7 opera buffa
- 5 are of a type called Singspiel—a German light comic opera with spoken dialogue.
• During his mature period in Vienna, Mozart composed three masterpieces:
Le nozze di Figaro (1786) Don Giovanni (1787) Così fan tutte (1790).
• Each is an opera buffa.
•The librettist for all three was Lorenzo da Ponte.
Lorenzo da Ponte (1749-1838) was born of an Italian- Jewish family, but became a Catholic priest.
As part of his training in a Catholic seminary, da Ponte became an expert in classical languages and Italian poetry.
In the 1780s he served as the official librettist for Emperor Joseph II in Vienna.
After Mozart’s death, da Ponte’s fortunes declined, and he made his way to London and then the United States, where he became the first professor of Italian at Columbia University.
• Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) is based on a play by French playwright Beaumarchais.
• In it an honest manservant (Figaro) outwits a philandering, mostly dishonest nobleman (Count Almaviva).
• Because it depicted the nobility as ignoble, Beaumarchais’s play was at first banned in France and soon in the Holy Roman Empire as well.
• Mozart and da Ponte toned down the anti- artistocracy element of the play, and Emperor Joseph II allowed them to present the subject as an opera.
Le nozze di Figaro
The American soprano Renée Fleming of Rochester, New York, singing the role of Countess
Mozart begins his aria “Voi, che sapete” with an instrumental introduction fashioned as antecedent (A) and consequent (B) phrases.
When the voice of Cherubino enters he inserts a new four-bar phrase between the first two.
This aria is a fine example of Mozart’s capacity to write music that is sublimely beautiful, yet sublimely simple.
The glories of Mozart’s opere buffe are found in this ensemble finales.
In these Mozart pushes the drama along at breakneck speed by having two, three, four, or more soloists sing separate contrapuntal lines to separate texts,each expressing a particular point of few.
When placed at the end of an act, the ensemble finale provides a rousing way to bring down the curtain.
Ensemble Finales in Mozart’s Opera
During the final year of his life (1791), Mozart composed a conventional opera seria (La clemenza di Tito) for the crowning of Emperor Leopold II in Prague as king of Bohemia.
He also composed a very unconventional Singspeil (Die Zauberflöte) for a suburban theater in Vienna.
Singspeil is a German light comic opera with spoken dialogue rather than recitatives
MOZART’S REQUIEM MASS
• The Requiem Mass is the funeral music for the Roman Catholic church.
• Mozart was commissioned to write one by a mysterious Count von Walsegg in the summer of 1791.
• Because Mozart was ill at this time, he came to see the Requiem as his own Requiem Mass.
THE DIES IRAE
• At the core of almost every Requiem Mass is the Dies irae (Day of Wrath), a lengthy, phantasmagorical text originating in the 13th century within a Gregorian chant.
• The Dies irae speaks of the pain and torment of hell and the Day of Judgment.
BEGINNING OF THE DIES IRAE
Dies irae, dies illa, Day of wrath, that day,Solvet saeclum in favilla, When the ages shall be
reduced to ashTeste David cum Sibylla. As foretold by David
and the Sibyl Prophet.Quantus tremor est futurus, What terror will occurQuando judex est venturus, When the eternal judge
arrives,Cuncta stricte discussurus. To loosen the chains of
those in hell.
THE “TUBA MIRUM”
A subsequent verse of the Dies irae, the “Tuba mirum” (“Wonderous trumpet”), recalls how the trumpet shall sound on the Day of Judgment.
Here Mozart creates perhaps the most famous trombone solo in the entire literature.
In the history of orchestral writing in opera, the sound of the trombone had frequently been associated with those of Hell.
The beginning of the “Tuba mirum” of the Dies irae of Mozart’s Requiem Mass
• Perhaps the most graphic moment in Mozart’s Requiem is found in the “Confutatis” of the Dies irae.
• Here Mozart creates music that reflects the contrast between the hellish cries of the damned (“Confutatis”=those confounded) against the heavenly sounds of the elect (“Benedictus”=those blessed).
THE “LACRIMOSA DIES ILLA”
The Dies irae concludes with the text “Lacrimosa dies illa” (“Ah, that day of tears and mounring”).
For this Mozart creates a musical funeral procession in the midst of which he makes a remarkable musical gesture.
The soprano line ascends in a mostly chromatic scale for more than an octave, like the just man or woman rising from the ashes of Hell.
The portion of the “Lacrimosa dies illa” in which the just soul arises
to be judged
Death prevented Mozart from completing his Requiem. It was left to his students, most notably Franz Süssmayr (1766-1803), to compose a few unfinished portions and flesh out the orchestration.
This figure shows some of the opening of the “Lacrimosa”; these notes are last notes written by Mozart.