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Wolfgang Amadé Mozart

Undeserved Gift to Humanity

Constantin Floros

Mozart’s ambivalent personality offers a key to a deeper understanding of his music. He could be merry, even boisterous, but from many of his works speaks a deep seriousness. Both mirth and melancholy stamp his being. His operatic music includes both the comic and the tragic. The present study treats the special character of his musical language and the relations between his personality and his multiform oeuvre. Its mission is to grasp the peculiarities of his operatic work, his opere serie, opere buffe and singspiels. The chapter "The Program in the Master Overtures" initiates the series of semantic analyses the author has pursued in other books. In the 19th century, it was fashionable to compare Mozart to Raffael. But the comparison is askew, as the graceful is only one side of his personality.

About the German edition

Chapter II "presents new and even surprising insights into the ‘program’ in Mozart’s master overtures. The connection between overture and drama is viewed from both compositional and semantic points of view. The studies, written with great stylistic and literary knowledge, enter deep into Mozart’s way of working. For both amateurs and cognoscenti, Floros achieves ad better understanding, above all, of the musical interconnections." (Rudolf Angermüller, Mitteilungen des Mozarteums)

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III Tragic and Comic Elements in the Master Operas


1. Fundamental Considerations

Of both the opera and the music drama of the 19th century, one can say generally that they had little use for a mixture of genres. Both Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, the two leading musical dramatists of the 19th century, were taken with the pathetic and the lofty. The cheerful is underrepresented in their oeuvre, and neither of them had an affinity with tragicomedy.

Mozart’s mature music theater presents an altogether different picture. Except for the festival opera La Clemenza di Tito, the five great other works Mozart wrote for the stage in Vienna exhibit solemn and humorous situations coexisting side by side. Tragedy and comedy shake hands; the sublime does not exclude the burlesque. To be specific:

Mozart composed the music of his singspiel Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) for Vienna’s National Theater, which was supported by the Emperor Joseph II. The magnanimity of the Turkish ruler Bassa Selim, who renounces his beloved Constanze and even grants liberty to the son of his arch-enemy, is the key idea of the work. In sharpest contrast to Bassa Selim’s nobility stands the character of the stupid, malicious and cruel Osmin, who is portrayed in wholly negative terns and who provides for involuntary comedy, as the suspicious palace overseer is outwitted by the smarter Europeans.

Le Nozze di Figaro is a work of social criticism in the form of a musical comedy,...

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