Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his Operas

During the classical period which is from 1730 to 1820, W. A. Mozart was the most famous composer among other talented and great composers. He wrote a lot of pieces for the different types of music. This essay addresses his two operas “The marriage of Figaro” and “Don Giovanni”.

In 1786, he finished “The Marriage of Figaro” and the show was performed, and the composing of “Don Giovanni” was finished and performed in 1787. During this time, Mozart wrote those two completely different styles of opera because of his personal life and the environment of the society inspired him from a comedy which satirized the social equality to a tragedy which describes the liberty of a specific character.

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So this essay will 1) Present a brief description of Mozart. 2) Introduction and analysis of “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Don Giovanni”. 3) Compare these two operas with the fact that “Don Giovanni” (1787) was written only one year after “The Marriage of Figaro” (1786).

1). Description of Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1751-1791) was a widely acknowledged Austrian composer, performer, and a player of various music instruments. Mozart since the age of 6 started to align with various composers and patrons who guided him and motivated him to put more effort to advance his career, which led him to develop hundreds of compositions including concertos, operas, and sonatas among other styles. Born and raised in the city-state of Salzburg Mozart and other composers of his time gained the support of aristocratic leaders who promoted such artists by giving them something to perform or entertain a group of highly-paced persons or visitors. The development in music, which facilitated the adoption of better instrumentation, offered Mozart and his team a good opportunity to develop more entertaining compositions, and also eased the task of composing. Mozart who was the only surviving son of Maria Mozart and Leopold Mozart emerged to be one of the prolific entertainers as he became older until he met his death at the age of 35 following a short illness.

The 1700s saw the works of Wolfgang Mozart creating a difference in music and operatic development. Some of the works that gained much fame because of their valuable teachings at the time were The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. Mozart developed the works simultaneously such that one work came a year earlier than the other. The themes in both performances pass vital lessons to the audience, which make the creations applicable even in the present times. Even though Mozart experienced some challenges including the death of his father and mentor at the time of his composition, he used the experience to advance his skills and independence in the field of composition, which made him a key performer until he met his death.

2.) The Marriage of Figaro

Mozart developed The Marriage of Figaro in 1786 as an Italian comic opera and divided the composition into four acts. The Marriage of Figaro opera is based on a play by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais with the title Le Marriage de Figaro with the classical work still remaining to be influential in the world of operas. The Marriage of Figaro emerged as an instant success with the brilliantly placed ideas and well-planned overture offering insight into the characters of the people behind the composition and performance. The opera is set in the castle of Count Almaviva near Seville in Spain, and comprises of four acts.

The Characters

The opera comprises of different characters but Figaro and the Count emerge as the major characters. Count Almaviva plays as a nobleman and sings baritone in the composition. Countess Almaviva sings soprano and takes the role of the Count’s wife. Susanna who sings soprano is the Countess’ maid, and is betrothed to Figaro. Other characters in The Marriage of Figaro include Cherubino who signs mezzo-soprano and acts as the Count’s page, Mercellina who sings soprano and takes the role of Bartolo’s (a doctor from Seville who signs bass) housekeeper. The opera also features Don Basillo (tenor) who is a music master, Don Cruzio (tenor) who plays as a magistrate, Barbarina (soprano), Antonio (bass) a gardener, as well as peasants, servants, and villagers.

Count Almaviva and Figaro emerge as the leading casts in the performance because the storyline mostly revolve around the two. First, the entire story is set in the Count’s castle making him a very prominent figure in the masterpiece. The Count emerges as the most influential in his surrounding because most of the other characters including Figaro serve under him to fulfill his desires. Also important is that the love affairs developing in the story mostly impact on the Count in some way. Figaro also emerges as a leading character in the story because similar to the Count the cast indulges in relationships that have major influence on the course the storyline takes. Another feature depicting Figaro as one of the leading casts in the opera is Mozart decides to utilize his name as the opera’s title, maybe with the intention of raising some awareness about what befalls the character in the story, or to raise some attention about him to the audience.

The Theme

The audiences of The Marriage of Figaro are able to realize some themes, which emerge from the storyline. One of the major themes in the opera is infidelity whereby various characters enter into love affairs that contravene their formal affairs. The teenaged Cherubino, for example, enters into a secretive love affair with the Countess and this nearly lands him into problem when act two the boy is forced to jump out through the window in an attempt to save his life when the Count nearly catches him flirting with the Countess. Act I also introduces the audience to Marcellina who has an affair with Figaro despite the fact that the latter is betrothed to Susanna. Figaro initially promises that he would marry Marcellina if he fails to pay the money he borrowed from Dr. Bartlo’s housekeeper. The opera even shows in act one how Susanna and Marcellina enters into a fuss when the two ladies get to meet each other at the Count’s castle. The theme of infidelity further emerges in the way the Countries in all attempts to stop Figaro from marrying Susanna by wooing her, and even arranging meetings where the two can meet privately. The Countess is aware of the dishonesty her husband displays but does not want to interrupt because Susanna is aware of her relationship with Cherubino, and instead only facilitates how the two would meet.

Other than the theme of infidelity, which appears to be the major emerging issue in the story, the theme of forgiveness comes out strongly. The Count, for example, forgives his wife when he realizes that she cheats with Cherubino. The scene unfolds in Act IV where some peasant girls together with Barbarina and Cherubino who disguises as the Countess to trick the Count into accepting them. The Count with the help of Antonio, nevertheless, manages to unmask Cherubino, which almost make the Count to attack him. Barbarina, nevertheless, manages to successfully persuade the Count to forgive the teenager (Cherubino). The Count also forgives his wife for her indulgence with Cherubino further strengthening the theme of forgiveness. The story further develops the theme of forgiveness in the way Figaro forgives his wife Susanna after learning of her indulgence with the Count. Figaro forgives Susanna in the last scene of act four thereby marking the climax of the opera.

What the Artist is trying to express through the Opera

Mozart’s opera delivers valuable lessons to the audience thus making it a suitable work for many people to watch. The artist through his masterpiece tries to create awareness on the need for forgiveness no matter how much one might feel offended. The opera presents some serious issues, where it is not easy for one to forgive the other because infidelity forms part of the offense. It is on very rare instances will someone forgive the other when they find them red-handed engaging in adultery, particularly with close friends or relatives. Mozart, however, chooses to utilize infidelity as an example to show the need to forgive each other regardless of the magnitude of the offense because that is the only sure way to restore peace and to avoid confrontations. Mozart, nonetheless, does not encourage the audience to engage in wrong deeds with the impression that they would get forgiveness because still wrongdoing has other unwanted effects. Engaging in unwanted actions may cause embarrassment even if the wrongdoer gets forgiveness. The Count, for instance, faces humiliation and shame when her wife finds out about his secretive affair with the young man.

Why the Emperor Banned The Marriage of Figaro

Soon after Mozart released The Marriage of Figaro, it generated varying reactions from various groups with the emperor of Vienna (Emperor Joseph II) banning its performance anywhere in Vienna. The leader banned the production with the perception that it depicted some ideologies that are contradictory. Even though the emperor did not offer much explanation for his actions, he made it clear that the work should not show anywhere in Vienna, and even warned that the host and the artist would be responsible for holding any shows within the forbidden location. Following the ban of the composition, Mozart knew he still had to generate income to sustain his livelihood and proceed with the help of his colleagues to acquire rights for showing the operatic form, which managed to go through successfully. Mozart also chose to present the work in print media, which still played critical roles in making the production famous among the people of Vienna and the whole of Europe. Relentless pressure from the librettists, nonetheless, pushed the emperor to lessen his strictness thereby allowing Mozart and his team to develop better structures and cast to make the performances even more appealing and enlightening.

Don Giovanni

Italian Lorenzo Da Ponte partnered with Mozart to develop Don Giovanni in 1787, which premiered at the National Theater of Bohemia on the same year. The work of two acts is based on the mythology of Don Juan, and it presents some components of action and comic. A notable feature in the story is the need to do to others what is right, and in accordance with the societal expectations.

The Characters

The music with an operatic version brings together various characters taking different roles, and also taking charge of different sounds to deliver the composition. Don Giovanni who sings baritone is the leading character in the performance because apart from having his name appearing in the work’s title, the storyline revolves around him, especially how he flirts with many ladies, and at the same time indulges in unlawful practices such as committing murder and telling lies. The climax of the performance is where fire consumes Giovanni after coming face to face with the Commandant’s (bass) ghost. The story, nevertheless, incorporates other characters to make the production presentable with casts such as Don Ottavio (tenor) playing as Anna’s (soprano) lover, and Leporello (bass) takes the role of Giovanni’s helper. Donna Elvira and Zerlina both sing soprano and take the roles the Commandant’s daughter and Masetto’s (bass) fiancée respectively. Other casts who help to bring out the story include the sounds of demons, dancers, the musicians who perform at Giovanni’s residence, and peasants.

The Theme

The story presents the theme of infidelity as the main theme making it similar to The Marriage of Figaro in some aspects. Don Giovanni appears to get in love with many girls while cheating them that they are the only one he is dating. Leporello makes Elvira know in the act one she is not the only one seeing Giovanni at the moment. Giovanni’s aid tells Elvira his master has nearly 100 lovers in France, 640 women in Italy, and almost 1003 in Spain alone, which strengthens the theme of fidelity in this case. Giovanni even takes away Zerlina from Masetto when the two lovers celebrate their engagement further showing the leading cast’s adulterous nature. Zerlina also contributes towards the development of the theme of fidelity in the way she enters into an affair with Giovanni behind her fiancé’s awareness. The story, nevertheless, presents other themes, which are critical in the development of the composition. The theme of forgiveness appears when Masseto puts down his fury when he impounds on Zerlina and Giovanni walking in a secluded place. The story towards the end develops the theme of superstition when Giovanni comes face to face with the Commandant’s ghost.

What the Artist is trying to express through the Opera

Mozart’s Don Giovanni tries to express vital information to its audiences. One of the vital insights from the story is the need to adhere to actions that are right to avoid being victims of circumstances. The story creates the impression that engaging in actions that are incorrect may land one into problems they might not be able to evade. Most importantly, the story calls on the need to work as a team to overcome a troubling issue. The composition shows how Elvira, Ottavio, Masseto, and Anna work as a team to expose Giovanni’s dirty acts. Most importantly, the story teaches on the need for forgiveness as it comes out in the case between Masetto and Zerlina where one forgives the other for engaging in infidelity. Forgiveness provides one with the opportunity to redeem themselves and may be a good opportunity to rebuild a weakening relationship.

3.) Comparison of the Two Periods

Mozart created Don Giovanni in 1787 only a year after the 1786 release of The Marriage of Figaro but it is possible to identify some variations between the two periods. The prime similarity in the two periods is people were thrilled by captivating operas such as the one Mozart developed. The periods, nevertheless, were different in the way the artist had to deal with the death of his father in 1787, which was not the case in 1786.

The Death of Mozart’s Father

Johann Leopold Mozart worked as a teacher, music composer, and violinist who largely influenced his son Mozart to gain the advanced artistic skills. Leopold engaged his son in numerous lessons and became aware of strong capability in his offspring before he attained the age of ten. The two (father and son) shared information extensively on composition techniques, and also on other ideas, which were instrumental in the development of the young artist. Mozart wrote to his father on numerous instances informing him that he is progressing well and even wrote to him at one time saying that he should no longer consider him (Wolfgang Mozart) as being young and unable to come up with something great. Leopold and Wolfgang were dependent on each other despite their variations and this explains why the father viewed the young artist with skepticism, and above all, Leopold viewed his son as a security to the whole family, which he had already offered so much for the upcoming artist’s sake. The bond between the two was so strong such that Leopold felt his son would leave him when he eloped with Aloysia.

The link between the father and son started to shift as Leopold grew older. The aging Leopold lost the immense influence over his son who was growing older and had the urge to take his actions into his own hands. The situation highly worried Leopold who wondered how his son would cope in a sector where mentorship is instrumental in yielding the best outcome. Leopold’s death in 1787, nevertheless, came as a major blow to the young Mozart who did not only lose a father but also a friend, teacher, and mentor. Leopold died in the same year Mozart produced Don Giovanni and this affected the artist’s performance and promotion of the work. Even though losing his father meant being deprived of vital guide, the incident presented some opportunity for Mozart to become independent and self-innovative. Being alone encouraged Mozart to find out skills that would improve his future compositions, and also presented the chance to link with other experts who offered valuable insight to develop the career.

It is vital to acknowledge how stress from the society influenced Mozart’s career. The societal stress caused the composer so much pain and anguish, especially after both his parents’ death. The stress pushed Mozart to develop compositions that would ease his tension, and at the same express his emotions. Mozart actually developed works such as The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni to help him display his emotions. Fortunately, Emperor Joseph II offered him the opportunity to serve as his chamber composer in the same year his father died (1787) and this served as a good chance for Mozart to overcome the hard times. Even though Joseph made the appointment with the motive of preventing Mozart from getting out of Vienna in search for better opportunities, the role served a major role in easing the pressure the artist had within him.

Conclusion

The paper presents the analysis of The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni, which are two of the major compositions by Mozart during his time as an artist. Both stories present valuable lessons to me as a performer, the emotion when I playing is really important when I’m performing even when I’m practicing. Furthermore, as audiences, we should be applicable when facing different situations, and not necessarily having to do with love affairs as it appears in the both stories. Even though Mozart died at a young age, his inspirations from his father provided him a platform to establish a name for himself in the sector where other mighty artists competed for audience. The value of information in the compositions by Mozart is the main reason why the works remain widely influential in the present times.

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