Mozart opera

Mozart - touring

born in Salzburg - him and his father (Leopold) worked here on the music staff for Prince Archbishop of Salzburg

toured cities and courts of Europe showing off his musical talents - encouraged by his father

  • did this because of his father
  • exposed to huge range of music and styles
  • mostly influenced by Munich, Mannheim, Mainz, Frankfurt, Brussels, London and Paris 
  • tour of Italy (Vienna) in his teenage years led to composition of many operas, symphoniesand chamber music
  • since Italy, commisions of masses and anthems in Salzburg were boring for him
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Mozart - Vienna


  • rich in culture 
  • lots of opera, churches and patrons 
  • (Holy Roman Emporer)
  • he however failed to get work and returned to Salzburg in 1773 - but soon left to get away from Prince Archbishop of Salzburg 
  • went to Munich to premiere his opera 'Idomeneo'
  • 1781- rejoined Prince Archbishop on their tour to Vienna but ended up arguing again - Mozart was terminated and never returned to Salzburg
  • whilst in Vienna however, Mozart made a number of new contacts 
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changes in Holy Roman Empire

Emporer of Joseph II:

  • was making reforms with aim of reducing power of church at the time
  • made the atmosphere of Vienna defined by entertainment and Enlightenment 
  • theatres flourised - the Emporer took over the central Burgtheater (in Vienna) himself employing Count Rosenberg as director - this theatre became a key part of Vienna culture 
  • insisted on German-language works
  • insisted on avoidance of opera seria
  • allowed 'theatre freedom' for new theatres outside the city walls - one run by Schikaneder of whom's productions Mozart would contributed some music - met later on to reproduce Mozart's 'Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail' which led to controversy - they were both 'maverick' in nature 

beneficial for Mozart:

  • had huge success with his Sinspeil 'Die Entfugrung aus dem Serail' which premiered at the Burgtheter.
  • it was Vienna where he established his reputation as successful composer.

post-death = the death of Joseph (succeeded by Leopld II) led Mozart and his wife into poverty 

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slow start for Magic Flute

Mozart got back into earning money through his friend Benedikt Schack who was his first 'Tamino'

Schikaneder and co. provided Mozart with financial stability

worked in Freihaus

  • Mozart loved the company's approach to writing and producing
  • audiences were less pretentious
  • tickets were less expensive than for at the Burgtheater 


the duo (Mozart and Schikaneder) soon ran into financial problems 

their 'Die Zauberflote' premiered 30 September 1791

Mozart died 2 months later so never saw it's financial/artistic success

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The Enlightenment

  • intellectual and philosophical movement in the 18th century 
  • saw reason as the primary source of authority/legitimacy
  • believed in liberty and progress 
  • encouraged the separation of church and state 

in the Magic Flute:

underneath the comic fairytale, their is a huge amount of symbolism to do with enlightenment 

Sarastro = representative of enlightenment as he rules according to principles based on reason / wisdom /nature

Tamino/Papageno's journey = symbol of journey from reigious superstition to rational enlightenment 

"the Earth a heavenly kingdom, and mortals likethe gods' ("Dann ist die Erd - ein Himmelreich, und Sterbliche den Gottern gleich") = aim of enlightenment 

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  • Freemasons are part of a secret men's society 
  • Mozart and his father were both initiated 

in Magic Flute:

masonic themes are evident - good vs evil, enlightenment vs ignorance, virtues of knowledge/justice/wisdom/truth 

  • trials for Tamino to be worthy of Pamina = similiar to those found in Masonic initation 
  • worship of Egyptian gods = practice identified with Masonic tradition 
  • rule of 3; 3 ladies / boys / loud chords at start of overture / temples / knocks at temple / flats (Eflat major) = reflects the masonic number 

the opera is able to demonstrate Mozart's exquisite music and important symbols WHILST retaining Schikaneder's lighter comical libretto

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Mozart - Classical Period

he helped establish the Classical style at the end of the 18th century

Classical Period:

  • development of symphony 
  • piano sonata 
  • piano concerto
  • sonata form decline in counterpoint

Other composers:

  • Beethoven - Mozart gave him some lessons in Vienna 
  • Haydn - friend of Mozart 

Changes to opera:

  • vernacular used 
  • variation of mood within arias - compared to Baroque static opera and da capo arias+solo recits
  • duets and larger ensemblesare more important - from only a few ensembles in Baroque 
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first to write in vernacular for operas 

usually operas were Italien because of their invention in Italy at the start of the 17th century

all of Baroque era were written Italien e.g. Handel's

before Mozart's vernacular operas, the German and English people would simply have booklets containing the libretto

e.g. Mozart's 'Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail' was one of the first Classical operas in German.


despite this breakthrough, most of his later operas were written in Italien e.g. 'Le Nozze di Figaro'

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= 'sing-play'

unlike most operas where all dialogue is sung, there is incorporation of spoken word (more like a modern musical)

typical styles = magic / comedy / exagerating sense of good and evil

contains simple ballads and songs 

unlike most opera where audiences included nobility and rich members of society, these were entertainment for the middle class

solo arias and ensemble numbers, with recit (opera seria) replaced by spoken dialogue - no acc

The Magic Flute:

took singspiels to new level - includes massive variation of styles = humour, magic, moving scenes , passion and excitement WHILST including serious themes from the Freemason movement - Magic Flute is argued to be singspiel in it's most sophiticated form 

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