Saturday, April 27, 2019

Mozart’s Least-Loved Opera

From The New York Times:
Mozart wrote “Clemenza” on commission in 1791 for the coronation of Leopold II as king of Bohemia. In the opera, a Roman emperor forgives his friend, who had been compelled by love to conspire against him. The 1734 libretto, by Pietro Metastasio, already felt sclerotic by Mozart’s theatrical standards; he tweaked it to create ensemble numbers amid the sequence of dry recitatives and pomp-and-firework arias that made up a traditional opera seria. Even so, an Austrian nobleman who attended the premiere called it “most boring” in his diary. The new queen, Maria Luisa, struggled to stay awake. Reports that she called the opera “una porcheria tedesca” — German pigswill — may be apocryphal. Or perhaps she bristled at the work’s political message, which presented clemency and tolerance as a ruler’s supreme virtues just weeks after Marie Antoinette had been arrested midflight and forcibly returned to Paris amid jeering crowds. After all, the production Leopold and Maria Luisa watched in Prague was in contemporary dress. (Read more.)

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