[Marxism] Mozart's Figaro and Don Giovanni

Dbachmozart at aol.com Dbachmozart at aol.com
Fri Apr 14 15:08:40 MDT 2006

In a message dated 4/14/2006 2:03:11 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
marxism-request at lists.econ.utah.edu writes:

>>> jlevich at earthlink.net 04/14/06 7:23 AM  >>>
Last week my wife and son and I attended a satisfactory  performance of Don 
Giovanni at New York City Opera -- we can afford to do this  maybe once a year 
given the outrageous ticket prices. Despite the tameness of  Harold Prince's 
staging the theme of class struggle comes through loud and  clear (premiere was 
in 1787). Found myself wondering how the opera's premiere  was received by 
aristocrats and others in the audience -- anyone know any  reliable sources on 
this, and on the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte? 
Mozart and Da Ponte's Figaro of 1786 was based upon a play by  Beaumarchais, 
ruled to be "subversive" by the Austrian censors. Composer  and librettist 
agreed to remove the "offensive" political  characterizations, but Mozart 
re-inserted them musically. The Viennese  aristocracy saw through this and basically 
boycotted his subscription concerts  for the next four years, causing great 
financial hardship.
The city of Prague however went wild over Figaro, causing  Mozart to write 
back to his wife that "all of Prague is singing tunes from  Figaro!"  The city 
commissioned him to write Don Giovanni which was  completed in 1787 to similar 
acclaim. The Viennese, still smarting over  Figaro wanted no part of it, and 
it was closed down after 8  performances. Prague's leading citizens begged 
Mozart to move there where he  would be better appreciated - worshipped! -but for 
a world class musician back  then, Vienna was like Broadway/Carnegie Hall, and 
Prague was like Peoria. In  1791 Joseph Haydn, after being a musical servant 
for the Esterhazy aristocracy  for 29 years, toured London and received a 
glowing reception. He immediately  wrote back to Mozart, telling him to, in effect 
catch the next train (coach) and  escape the petty intrigues of the Viennese. 
But Wolfy couldn't get away, and  died later that year. Would he have been 
happier and as musically  productive if he moved to either Prague or London - 
we'll never  know.
suggested readings -
The Mozart - Da Ponte Operas, Andrew Steptoe  Clarendon Press 
Mozart in Vienna, 1781 - 1791, Volkmar Braunbehrens  Grove Weidenfeld 
1791:Mozart's Last Year, and Mozart and Vienna - H.C.Robbins Landon,  
Schirmer Books
Mozart, A Cultural Biography,m Robert W Gutman Harcourt Brace and Company 
Dennis Kobray

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