‘Was soll ich die Musen…’

The first performance in Prague of “Le Nozze di Figaro” in Mozart’s presence took place on 17 January 1787, followed by a second performance on 22 January with the composer conducting. On their superb scholarly site “Mozart: New Documents”, Dexter Edge and David Black present a document dated 18 January 1787: a notice from The Oberdeutsche Staatszeitung (edited by Lorenz Hübner), stating that through a poem and two letters (one signed by the entire Prague Orchestra) Mozart was invited to come to Prague to see the “Figaro” which had already been acclaimed there a number of times in the end of 1786. Visit the site to read the excellent research in its entirety, and see the document : 

https://sites.google.com/site/mozartdocuments/documents/1787-01-18

Dexter Edge & David Black – 18 January 1787, Mozart’s invitation to Prague

“The first performances of Le nozze di Figaro in Prague took place in late autumn 1786. The precise date of the Prague premiere is unknown, but the first report on the opera in the Prager Oberpostamtzeitung on 12 Dec 1786 states that it had already been given a number of times (“einigemal”) by that point.

That same report cites a rumor that Mozart himself might come to Prague to see the production.

The new document transcribed here, from the Salzburg newspaper Oberdeutsche Staatszeitung, states that Mozart had been sent a poem and two letters, one signed by the entire Prague orchestra, inviting him to come to Prague to see the production. The content of the report closely mirrors Leopold Mozart’s letter to his daughter of 12 Jan 1787, six days earlier:

“Your brother will now be in Prague with his wife, for he wrote me that he would depart for there this past Monday [8 Jan]. His opera Le nozze di Figaro has been performed with such acclaim there, that the orchestra and a group of great connoisseurs and amateurs wrote him a letter of invitation, and sent a poem that had been written about him. I have it from your brother, and Count Starhemberg has received it from Prague. I will send it to you on the next post day. Mme. Duschek is going to Berlin, and the story that your brother will travel to England is repeatedly confirmed from Vienna, from Prague, and from Munich.”

The poem that accompanied the invitation to Prague was written by doctor and amateur actor Anton Daniel Breicha: “An Mozart bey Gelegenheit der Vorstellung der Oper le nozze di Figaro” (Dokumente, 248–49), first published as an individual sheet (a copy of which had been sent to Mozart and evidently also to Starhemberg), and subsequently printed in the anthology Blumen, Blümchen und Blätter edited by Johann Dionys John  (John 1787, 15–17).” 

Dexter Edge & David Black, eds., Mozart: New Documents, “18 January 1787 – Mozart’s invitation to Prague,” first published 13 May 2015, updated 2 Nov 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.7302/Z20P0WXJ

And here is the poem…

the-poem-that-accompanied-mozarts-invitation-to-prague-jan-1787-written-by-doctor-and-amateur-actor-anton-daniel-breicha

“Was soll ich die Musen, begeistert von Dir,  

Um Beystand beschwören? Sey Muse du mir!  

Sey Du mir des Pindus beauschende Quelle!  

Ich hört’ Dich, melodischer Denker, und priess      

Dein Schopfertalent, und in’s Wonnermeer riss

Mich bald der empfindungen mächtigste Welle.

Zwar rollen bey Deinem Getöne nicht Wald,

Nicht Felsen herbey; nicht fabelhaft hallt

Dein sprechendes Spiel dem gefrässigen Tiger.

Doch bist Du der Fühlenden Orpheus mehr,

Bist Herrscher der Seelen, Dir fröhnt das Gehör

Der Kinder, der Mädchen, der Männer, der Krieger. 

Wenn Liebe Dein schmelzendes Saitenspiel tönt,

Sucht trunken der Jüngling sein Liebchen, und stöhnt,

Und heftiger hämmert der Busen dem Liebchen.

Sie winkt den Geliebten zum Göttergenuss,

Und mit in Dein Saitenspiel lispelt ein Kuss

Von Lippen des Jünglings, von Lippen des Liebchen…” 

Anton Daniel BreichaAN MOZART, Bey Vostellung seiner Oper: Figaro. 1785.  

(Transcription from Georg Nissen’s “Biografie Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts”

 

a-d-breicha-an-mozart-blumen-blumchen-und-blatter-stat-eines-prager-musenalmanachs-prag-und-wien-1787 blumen-blumchen-und-blatter-stat-eines-prager-musenalmanachs-prag-und-wien-1787

 

blumen-blumchen-und-blutter-stat-eines-prager-musenalmanachs-prag-und-wien-1787

Blumen, Blümchen und Blätter

Stat eines Prager Musenalmanachs 

Prag und Wien, 1787 

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29 October 1787, Prague: Don Giovanni

224 years ago, on 29 October 1787, Mozart was undergoing the last preparations for the Prague première of his opera Don Giovanni. Prague, the city so dear to him, had enthusiastically welcomed the great composer, who in turn had not hesitated to return the affection. “Meine Prager verstehen mich” – “My Praguers understand me” – this is how Mozart defined his relationship with the residents of the Bohemian city. The première of Le nozze di Figaro of January 1787 had been a triumph: weeks in a row the Praguers would whistle and sing, on the streets and in the cafés, Figaro’s wonderful melodies. After this success Mozart was commissioned to write a new work: director Pasquale Bondini asked him to write a new opera which would be premiered in Prague. Mozart accepted and by the end of September 1787 he returned to Prague with Don Giovanni, on which he continued to work until the day of the premiere. On this visit in Prague Mozart stayed both in the city, at the inn “Zu den drei goldene Löwen” (“At the Three Gold Lions”), and outside the city, at the Villa Bertramka, the beautiful property of Josefa and František Dušek. It was here that Mozart found the oasis of silence in which he would conclude Don Giovanni.  

The premiere of the opera took place in the splendid Estates Theatre, in that time named Nostitz National Theatre, honouring the aristocrate František Antonín Count Nostitz Rieneck, whose illuminist vision and financial support had been the foundation of the theatre. Prague Estates Theatre is one of the few European theatres which were preserved almost untouched to this day – a sign of the Czechs’ respect and appreciation for their history and culture!   

It is a miraculous feeling to step into this theatre and realize you are in the same place in which Wolfgang Mozart has conducted his masterpieces! 224 years ago, those lodges were roaring in anticipation of the moment when the composer would appear in front of the audience, then, after a gracious bow, would turn around and give the orchestra the signal for the beginning of the opera that would later inspire the great French composer Charles Gounod to write: “It is an unequalled and immortal masterpiece, the apogee of the lyrical drama. The score of Don Giovanni has exercised the influence of a revelation upon my whole life; it has been and remains for me a kind of incarnation of dramatic and musical infailibility. I regard it as a work without blemish, of uninterrupted perfection!”  

Estates Theater, Prague

224 years ago, on this very night, Mozart’s Praguers were descending from their carriages in front of the theatre, the gentlemen dressed in splendid embroidered velvet costumes and white lace shirts, the ladies clothed in elegant brocade robes, from under which rustled sumptuous dresses of satin and taffeta, trimmed with silk and pearls. The gilded stucco of the lodges sparkled in the light of  hundreds of candles and the spectators’ voices filled the theatre with a murmur that would melt in the lively applauses with which the composer was greeted the moment he appeared in the hall.  

Provinzial Nachrichten of Vienna reported after this wonderful evening: “Herr Mozart conducted in person and was welcomed joyously and jubilantly by the numerous gathering”. And Prager Oberpostamtszeitung published a review on November 3, 1787: “Monday the 29th the Italian Opera Society presented the passionately awaited opera of the composer Mozart Don Giovanni, or the Banquet in Stone. Connoisseurs and musicians say that its equal has never been presented Prague. Herr Mozart himself conducted, and when he entered the orchestra, he was accorded a triple ovation; this occurred when he left the orchestra pit as well. As for the opera, it is extremely difficult to execute, and everyone admires, regardless, the good performance after such a short rehearsal period. Everything, theater and orchestra, offered its all to reward and thank Mozart with a good performance. Moreover, much expense was entailed by the several choruses and the decoration, all of which was splendidly arranged by Herr Guardasoni. The extraordinary number of spectators is evidence for the general approbation.”   

(source: Soren Kierkegaard’s Interpretation of Mozart’s Opera Don Giovanni)

playbill-for-the-prague-premiere-of-don-giovanni-29-oct-1787

Don Giovanni ossia il dissoluto punito: dramma giocoso in due atti con balli analoghi ; parole del Sign. Abbate da Ponte, musica del celebre maestro Sign. Amadeo Mozart

224 years have passed since that golden moment of Music and Don Giovanni has remained one of the greatest works of the universal creation. The miraculous music of Wolfgang Mozart speaks to our soul as emotionally, as powerfully today as ever.  

Words are useless, let us listen!   

The musical sequences in the movie Amadeus were filmed in the

Estates Theatre of Prague. 

224 years ago, in this place, in this moment, Mozart was conducting his opera! 

The Distribution of the Premiere of Don Giovanni

Prague, October 23, 1787  

Il Dissoluto Punito ossia il Don Giovanni  

Dramma giocoso in due atti  

Libretto: Lorenzo da Ponte  

Conductor: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 

Don Giovanni: Luigi Bassi  

Leporello: Felice Ponziani  

Il Commendatore: Giuseppe Lolli  

Donna Anna: Teresa Saporiti  

Don Ottavio: Antonio Baglioni  

Donna Elvira: Katherina Micelli  

Masetto: Giuseppe Lolli  

Zerlina: Caterina Bondini   

DON GIOVANNI PERFORMANCES IN THE ESTATES THEATRE OF PRAGUE  

estates-theatre-1

estates-theatre-2

estates-theatre-3

estates-theatre-5

“Dearest, most beloved Friend!

My opera Don Giovanni was performed on October 29th, with the greatest of applause. – Yesterday it was given for the 4th time – for my own Benefit. – I think I’ll be leaving here on the 12th or 13th; … NB, just between you and me; – I so wished that my good friends, particularly Bridi and you, could be here just for one evening to share in my great happiness here!” 

Wolfgang Mozart to Gottfried von Jacquin

(source: Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide for Don Giovanni, 2007)

 

estates-theatre-7

estates-theatre-6

Mozart - Don Giovanni - Original playbill for the Vienna premiere of May 7, 1788

Playbill for the Vienna premiere of 7 May 1788


My Mozart Shelf

“… Yes, I’ve read everything you see in those two shelves… and yet I feel I know nothing about him… Take a look at this book: there are one thousand five hundred pages of which sixty alone contain the bibliography from which the book was born! I felt despair going through those last pages, asking myself if it would ever be possible to read everything that was written about him… it’s like a giant river, thousands of souls have written millions of pages about One only… I asked myself why, why this turmoil, this deep emotion that touches all who touch him… a profound disquiet, for some, for others a desire pushed towards obsession… an almost irrational need to get closer to him, to know him, to understand him… and no one has succeeded yet… no one… this is why the line of those who keep looking for him is so long…”  

Cristina 

My Mozart Shelf spread on my harpsichord: A MozartKlavier 

My MozartKlavier 1

A fine moment to say Thank You again, Ralu! 🙂 

My MozartKlavier 2

My MozartKlavier 3

My MozartKlavier 4

My MozartKlavier 5

My MozartKlavier 6

My MozartKlavier 7

My Mozart Shelf 1

My Mozart Shelf 2

My Mozart Shelf 3

My Mozart Shelf 4

My MozartKlavier 8

My MozartKlavier 10

Text and images © Cristina Iordache

Bella mia fiamma, addio! – 3 November 1787

During his visit in Prague in 1787, for his Don Giovanni premiere, Mozart stayed at the Villa Bertramka, the property of his musician friends Frantisek and Josepha Duschek, and it was there where he wrote the beautiful concert aria „Bella mia fiamma, addio!” Dated 3 November 1787, the aria was dedicated to  his friend Josepha Duschek, and the story of its composition is quite unusual.


“The circumstances surrounding the composition of “Bella mia fiamma… Resta, oh cara!” (K 528) are those of Mozart basking in the successful premiere of Don Giovanni in Prague on October 29, 1787. He was a guest at the country home near Prague of the composer Frantisek Duschek and his wife, soprano Josepha Duschek, for whom he had ten years earlier composed the concert aria “Ah, lo previdi“( K  272).

villa-bertramka-1

villa-bertramka-2-many-souffan

According to a story told by Mozart’s son, Josepha locked his father in a garden house, refusing to release him until he had composed for her an aria. Mozart, however, refused to hand over the score until Josepha agreed to sing the aria at sight, a daunting task given the harmonic and melodic complexity and the resulting emotional states both in the recitative and aria. In his book on Mozart, Alfred Einstein states succintly: “Mozart used extreme means to represent an extreme situation…” 

(Steven Lacoste, Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Josepha was the wife of the Prague pianist Franz Duschek and was herself an accomplished singer and pianist. According to Hermann Abert, Josepha was praised for her beautiful, full and well rounded voice, and also for her interpretative powers, which were said to be especially impressive in recitative. She triumphed easily over the difficulties of bravura singing, boasted an attractive use of portamento and was fully capable of combining power and ardour with emotion and charm, with the result that by 1782 she was already being described as “Bohemia’s Gabrieli”.

Not everybody agreed to this, however – as was the case with one musician named Leopold Mozart, who disliked her “exaggerated powers of expression”. A few years later Christian Korner would criticise her in the same manner, finding her powers of expression “too much of a caricature”, missing any sense of grace or charm. Schiller said much the same when she visited Weimar in 1788, finding her very bold, “not to say forward”. But in 1796 Ludwig van Beethoven  composed his concert aria “Ah, perfido!”, in Prague, for this talented singer, under the powerful impression of her musicianship. And as late as 1808 Reichardt was still praising her “ardent enthusiasm for all things beautiful”, which may very well mean that her critics had been taken by surprise by a woman who didn’t exactly fit in the “right” image of the times, a woman who was exceptionally gifted as a musician but in the same time too temperamental for the common taste.

Still there was one wonderful musician who seemed to be attracted especially by those qualities, and so in the autumn of 1787 we find Wolfgang Mozart comfortably installed at the Villa Bertramka, working to finish his Don Giovanni and greatly enjoying the company of his friends Frantisek and Josepha.


The composition of “Bella mia fiamma, addio!” is said to have happened in the most unusual and funny way, and the tale of the story is said to have emerged from none other than Mozart’s son, Karl Thomas.  This is the story that the Berliner Musik-Zeitung Echo published in 1856:

Bertramka is well known as the villa in which Mozart enjoyed staying with his musician friends, the Duscheks, during his visit to Prague, and where he composed several numbers for his Don Giovanni. On the summit of a hill near the villa stands a pavilion. In it, one day, Frau Duschek slyly imprisoned the great Mozart, after having provided ink, pen and notepaper, and told him that he was not to regain his freedom until he had written an aria he had promised her to the words “bella mia fiamma, addio”. Mozart submitted himself to the necessary; but to avenge himself for the trick Frau Duschek had played on him, he used various difficult-to-sing passages in the aria, and threatened his despotic friend that he would immediately destroy the aria if she could not succeed in performing it at sight without mistakes.”

Bernard Wilson, commenting on the story, adds: “There seems to be some corroboration of this account in the aria itself. The words Quest’ affano, questo passo è terribile per me are set to an awesome tangle of chromatic sequences artfully calculated to test the singer’s sense of intonation and powers of interpretation. Apparently Mme. Duschek survived the passo terribile, since the autograph bears her name in Mozart’s hand!”

In 1789 Josepha Duschek sang the work along with other beautiful arias at concerts given by Mozart in Dresden and Leipzig, during his German tour of that year. Various authors, of which Alfred Einstein and Maynard Solomon, have suggested that Mozart and Josepha had also lived a romantic affair, not only a musical one. This suggestion was disapproven by subsequent scholarship, because: “the available information does not permit such assertions to be made with certainty”. Same goes for the story of the relationship between Wolfgang Mozart with Anna (Nancy) Storace, the renowned prima donna of the Viennese Opera in the years which were Mozart’s best in Vienna (on which Lynette K. Erwin wrote in her book “So Faithful a Heart). As far as Mozart’s private life is concerned, there would probably have been more information had it not been for the “cleaning” of his biography by Constanze and her second husband, Georg Nissen. “Bella mia fiamma, addio!” or “Ch’io mi scordi di te?… ” tenderly speak of special moments in Mozart’s life. As Hermann Abert says on “Ah, lo previdi”: “the setting of the aria affords eloquent proof of the profound effect that this kind and beautiful woman had on his highly susceptible heart”. Bella mia fiamma, addio!”…  composed for Josepha Duschek, “Ch’io mi scordi di te?… Non temer, amato bene!”… composed for Nancy Storace. Both of them were extraordinarily gifted as musicians, both had wonderful voices, both of them were women ahead of their time and were not afraid to express it. And no matter how little information we have, enough has reached us as to know that Wolfgang had always been impressed by women musicians who were both gifted and bold. Those women “brought out the whole gallant side of his character and the music he dedicated them reflects his inner involvement”.

So many years after that day in Prague, we can portray in our mind how it must have looked like when Josepha Duschek took Mozart for a walk, in the garden of the villa… 

garden-of-villa-bertramka

garden-of-villa-bertramka-2

… then locked the great Wolfgang in the pavillion, with a supply of what he needed to write the aria he had promised! Which he did – but not without taking his revenge! A most unusual one! 

So… this is what happens when a gifted soprano plays a trick on a great composer : 

Lilian Sukis’ wonderful rendering of Bella mia fiamma

I chose Lilian Sukis’ rendering of this aria also because of the special quality of her voice, which I feel may resemble that of Josepha Duschek’s, as it was described by her contemporaries

The aria was set on the text of D.M. Sarcone’s Cerere placata, based on the myth of Proserpina and her mother Ceres.

Bella mia fiamma, addio! Non piacque

al cielo di renderci felici.

Ecco reciso, prima d’esser compito,

quel purissimo nodo, che strinsero

fra lor gli animi nostri con il solo voler.

Vivi! Cedi al destin, cedi al dovere!

Dalla giurata fede la mia morte t’assolve;

a più degno consorte…oh pene!

Unita vivi più lieta e più felice vita.

Ricordati di me; ma non mai turbi

d’un infelice sposo la rara rimembranza

il tuo riposo.

My dearest love farewell! It did not

please heaven to make us happy.

Lo, severed before yet completed

is that holy knot that bound our

spirits together in a single will.

Live! Yield to fate, yield to duty!

My death will absolve you from

the faith you pledged—oh grief!

Live a happier and more carefree life.

Remember me, but never let the

occasional memory of an unfortunate

betrothed disturb your peace. 

villa-bertramka-3


Photo credits specified where available, 

score images courtesy of Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg,

other images from the internet, assumed to be in the public domain.

DISCLAIMER – I don’t claim credit or ownership on the images taken from the internet, assumed to be in the public domain, used here. The owners retain their copyrights to their works. I am sharing the images exclusively for educational and artistic purposes – this blog is not monetized, and has no commercial profit whatsoever. Whenever I find the credits to internet images I am happy to add them. If you are the artist or the owner of original photos/images presented on this blog and you wish your works to be removed from here, or edited to include the proper credits, please send me a message and they will either be removed or edited. Thank you! 

Today, 29 October 1787

223 years ago, on October 29, 1787, Mozart was undergoing the last preparations for the Praguese premiere of his opera Don Giovanni. Prague, the city so dear to him, had enthusiastically welcomed the great composer, who in turn had not hesitated to return their affection. “Meine Prager verstehen mich” – “My Praguers understand me” – this is how Mozart defined his relationship with the residents of the bohemian city. The premiere of Le nozze di Figaro of January 1787 had been a triumph: weeks in a row the Praguese would whistle and sing, on the streets and in the cafes, Figaro’s wonderful melodies. After this success Mozart was commissioned to write a new work: director Pasquale Bondini asked him to write a new opera which would be premiered in Prague. Mozart accepted and by the end of September 1787 he returned to Prague with Don Giovanni, on which he continued to work until the day of the premiere. On this visit in Prague Mozart stayed both in the city, at the inn “Zu den drei goldene Löwen” (“At the Three Gold Lions”), and outside the city, at the Villa Bertramka, the beautiful property of Josefa and František Dušek. It was here that Mozart found the oasis of silence in which he would conclude Don Giovanni.

The premiere of the opera took place in the splendid Estates Theatre, in that time named Nostitz National Theatre, honouring the aristocrate Antonion Nostitz Rieneck, whose illuminist vision and financial support had been the foundation of the theatre. Prague Estates Theatre is one of the few Europeans theatres which were preserved almost untouched to this day – a sign of the Czech’s respect and appreciation for their history and culture!

It is a miraculous feeling to step into this theatre and realize you are in the same place in which Wolfgang Mozart has conducted his masterpieces! 223 years ago, those lodges were roaring in anticipation of the moment in which the composer would appear in front of the public, then, after a gracious bow, would turn to the orchestra and give the signal for the beginning of the opera on which the  great French composer Charles Gounod would later say: “It is an unequalled and immortal masterpiece, the apogee of the lyrical drama. The score of Don Giovanni has exercised the influence of a revelation upon my whole life; it has been and remains for me a kind of incarnation of dramatic and musical infailibility. I regard it as a work without blemish, of uninterrupted perfection!”

223 years ago, in this very moment, Mozart’s Praguese were descending from their carriages in front of the theatre, first the gentlemen, dressed in splendid embroidered velvet costumes from which white lace shirts could be seen,  then the ladies, clothed in elegant robes of brocade, from under which rustled sumptuous dresses of satin and taffeta, trimmed with silk and pearls. The gilded stucco of the lodges sparkled in the light of  hundreds of candles and the spectators’ voices filled the theatre with a murmur that would melt in the lively applauses with which the composer was greeted the moment he appeared in the hall.

Provinzial Nachrichten of Vienna reported after this wonderful evening: “Herr Mozart conducted in person and was welcomed joyously and jubilantly by the numerous gathering”. And Prager Oberpostamtszeitung published a review on November 3, 1787: “Monday the 29th the Italian Opera Society presented the passionately awaited opera of the composer Mozart Don Giovanni, or the Stone Feast. Connoisseurs and musicians say that its equal has never been presented Prague. Herr Mozart himself conducted, and when he entered the orchestra, he was accorded a triple ovation; this occurred when he left the orchestra pit as well. As for the opera, it is extremely difficult to execute, and everyone admires, regardless, the good performance after such a short rehearsal period. Everything, theater and orchestra, offered its all to reward and thank Mozart with a good performance. Moreover, much expense was entailed by the several choruses and the decoration, all of which was splendidly arranged by Herr Guardasoni. The extraordinary number of spectators is evidence for the general approbation.”

223 years have passed since that golden moment of Music and Don Giovanni has remained one of the greatest works of the universal creation. The miraculous music of Wolfgang Mozart, The One Loved by God, speaks to our soul as emotionally, as powerfully today as then.

Words are useless, let us listen!

The musical sequences in the movie Amadeus were filmed in the Estates Theatre of Prague.

223 years ago, in this place, in this moment, Mozart was conducting his opera!

The Distribution of the Premiere of Don Giovanni, Prague, October 23, 1787

Il Dissoluto Punito ossia il Don Giovanni

Dramma giocoso in due atti

Libretto: Lorenzo da Ponte

Conductor: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Don Giovanni: Luigi Bassi

Leporello: Felice Ponziani

Il Commendatore: Giuseppe Lolli

Donna Anna: Teresa Saporiti

Don Ottavio: Antonio Baglioni

Donna Elvira: Katherina Micelli

Masetto: Giuseppe Lolli

Zerlina: Caterina Bondini

 

NOVEMBER 2010 – ESTATES THEATRE OF PRAGUE – PERFORMANCES