Although Mozart's (1756-
The music of 'Idomeneo' is cast for the most part in Italian form, though the influence of Gluck is obvious in many points, particularly in the scene of the oracle. Here we find Mozart in his maturity for the first time; he has become a man, and put away childish things. In two points 'Idomeneo' is superior to any opera that had previously been written—in the concerted music (the choruses as well as the trios and quartets), and in the instrumentation. The chorus is promoted from the part which it usually plays in Gluck, that of a passive spectator. It joins in the drama, and takes an active part in the development of the plot, and the music which it is called upon to sing is often finer and more truly dramatic than that allotted to the solo singers. But the chorus had already been used effectively by Gluck and other composers; it is in his solo concerted music that Mozart forges ahead of all possible rivals. The power which he shows of contrasting the conflicting emotions of his characters in elaborate concerted movements was something really new to the stage. The one quartet in Handel's 'Radamisto' and the one trio in his 'Alcina,' magnificent as they are, are too exceptional in their occurrence to be quoted as instances, while the attempts of Rameau and his followers to impose dramatic significance into their concerted music, though technically interesting, do but faintly foreshadow the glory of Mozart. The orchestration of 'Idomeneo,' too, is something of the nature of a revelation. At Munich, Mozart had at his disposal an excellent and well-
Mozart's next work was very different both in scope and execution. It has already been pointed out that the two first works which the composer, as a child, wrote for the stage, followed respectively the Italian and German models. Similarly, he signalised his arrival at the full maturity of his powers by producing an Italian and German masterpiece side by side. 'Die Entführung aus dem Serail' was written for the Court Theatre at Vienna, in response to a special command of the Emperor Joseph II. It was produced on July 13, 1782. The original libretto was the work of C.F. Bretzner, but Mozart introduced so many alterations and improvements into the fabric of the story that, as it stands, much of it is practically his own work.
The Pasha Selim has carried off a Christian damsel named Constanze, whom he keeps in close confinement in his seraglio, in the hope that she may consent to be his wife. Belmont, Constanze's lover, has traced her to the Pasha's country house with the assistance of Pedrillo, a former servant of his own, now the Pasha's slave and chief gardener. Belmont's attempts to enter the house are frustrated by Osmin, the surly major-
Much of 'Die Entführung' is so thoroughly and characteristically German, that at first sight it may be thought surprising that it should have succeeded so well in a city like Vienna, which was inclined to look upon the Singspiel as a barbarian product of Northern Germany. But there is a reason for this, and it is one which goes to the root of the whole question of comic opera. Mozart saw that Italian comic operas often succeeded in spite of miserable libretti, because the entire interest was concentrated upon the music, and all the rest was forgotten. The German Singspiel writers made the mistake of letting their music be, for the most part, purely incidental, and conducting all the dramatic part of their plots by dialogue. Mozart borrowed the underlying idea of the opera buffa, applied it to the form of the Singspiel, which he kept intact, and produced a work which succeeded in revolutionising the history of German opera. But, apart from the question of form, the music of 'Die Entführung' is in itself fine enough to be the foundation even of so imposing a structure as modern German music. The orchestral forces at Mozart's disposal were on a smaller scale than at Munich; but though less elaborate than that of 'Idomeneo,' the score of 'Die Entführung' is full of the tenderest and purest imagination. But the real importance of the work lies in the vivid power of characterisation, which Mozart here reveals for the first time in full maturity. It is by the extraordinary development of this quality that he transcends all other writers for the stage before or since. It is no exaggeration to say that Mozart's music reveals the inmost soul of the characters of his opera as plainly as if they were discussed upon a printed page. In his later works the opportunities given him of proving this magical power were more frequent and better. The libretto of 'Die Entführung' is a poor affair at best, but, considering the materials with which he had to work, Mozart never accomplished truer or more delicate work than in the music of Belmont and Constanze, of Pedrillo, and greatest of all, of Osmin.
In 1786 Mozart wrote the music to a foolish little one-
For the sake of completeness it may be well to mention the existence of a comic opera entitled 'L'Oie du Caïre,' which is an exceedingly clever combination of the fragments left by Mozart of two unfinished operas, 'L'Oca del Cairo' and 'Lo Sposo Deluso,' fitted to a new and original libretto by the late M. Victor Wilder. In its modern form, this little opera, in which a lover is introduced into his mistress's garden inside an enormous goose, has been successfully performed both in France and England.
Not even the success of 'Die Entführung' could permanently establish German opera in Vienna. The musical sympathies of the aristocracy were entirely Italian, and Mozart had to bow to expediency. His next work, 'Le Nozze de Figaro' (1786), was written to an adaptation of Beaumarchais's famous comedy 'Le Mariage de Figaro,' which had been produced in Paris a few years before. Da Ponte, the librettist, wisely omitted all the political references, which contributed so much to the popularity of the original play, and left only a bustling comedy of intrigue, not perhaps very moral in tendency, but full of amusing incident and unflagging in spirit. It speaks volumes for the ingenuity of the librettist that though the imbroglio is often exceedingly complicated, no one feels the least difficulty in following every detail of it on the stage, though it is by no means easy to give a clear and comprehensive account of all the ramifications of the plot.
The scene is laid at the country-
The second act (according to the original arrangement) is mainly devoted to clearing up the various difficulties. Figaro turns out to be the long-
It seems hardly possible to write critically of the music of 'Le Nozze di Figaro,' Mozart had in a superabundant degree that power which is characteristic of our greatest novelists, of infusing the breath of life into his characters. We rise from seeing a performance of 'Le Nozze,' with no con sciousness of the art employed, but with a feeling of having assisted in an actual scene in real life. It is not until afterwards that the knowledge is forced upon us that this convincing presentment of nature is the result of a combination of the purest inspiration of genius with the highest development of art. Mozart knew everything that was to be known about music, and 'Le Nozze di Figaro,' in spite of its supreme and unapproachable beauty, is really only the legitimate outcome of two centuries of steady development. Perhaps the most striking feature of the work is the absolute consistency of the whole. In spite of the art with which the composer has Individualised his characters, there is no clashing between the different types of music allotted to each. As for the music itself, if the exuberant youthfulness of 'Die Entführung' has been toned down to a serener flow of courtliness, we are compensated for the loss by the absence of the mere bravura which disfigures many of the airs in the earlier work. The dominant characteristic of the music is that wise and tender sympathy with the follies and frailties of mankind, which moves us with a deeper pathos than the most terrific tragedy ever penned. It is perhaps the highest achievement of the all-
Mozart's next work, 'Don Giovanni' (October 29, 1787), was written for Prague, a city which had always shown him more real appreciation than Vienna. It was adapted by Da Ponte from a Spanish tale which had already been utilised by Molière. Although, so far as incident goes, it is not perhaps an ideal libretto, it certainly contains many of the elements of success. The characters are strongly marked and distinct, and the supernatural part of the story, which appealed particularly to Mozart's imagination and indeed determined him to undertake the opera, is managed with consummate skill.
Don Giovanni, a licentious Spanish nobleman, who is attracted by the charms of Donna Anna, the daughter of the Commandant of Seville, breaks into her palace under cover of night, in the hope of making her his own. She resists him and calls for help. In the struggle which ensues the Commandant is killed by Don Giovanni, who escapes unrecognised. Donna Elvira, his deserted wife, has pursued him to Seville, but he employs his servant Leporello to occupy her attention while he pays court to Zerlina, a peasant girl, who is about to marry an honest clodhopper named Masetto. Donna Anna now recognises Don Giovanni as her father's assassin, and communicates her discovery to her lover, Don Ottavio; Elvira joins them, and the three vow vengeance against the libertine. Don Giovanni gives a ball in honour of Zerlina's marriage, and in the course of the festivities seizes an opportunity of trying to seduce her. He is only stopped by the interference of Anna, Elvira, and Ottavio, who have made their way into his palace in masks and dominoes. In the next act the vengeance of the three conspirators appears to hang fire a little, for Don Giovanni is still pursuing his vicious courses, and employing Leporello to beguile the too trustful Elvira. After various escapades he finds himself before the statue of the murdered Commandant. He jokingly invites his old antagonist to sup with him, an invitation which the statue, to his intense surprise, hastens to accept. Leporello and his master return to prepare for the entertainment of the evening. When the merriment is at its height, a heavy step is heard in the corridor, and the marble man enters. Don Giovanni is still undaunted, and even when his terrible visitor offers him the choice between repentance and damnation, yields not a jot of his pride and insolence. Finally the statue grasps him by the hand and drags him down, amid flames and earthquakes, to eternal torment.
The taste of Mozart's time would not permit the drama to finish here. All the other characters have to assemble once more. Leporello gives them an animated description of his master's destruction, and they proceed to draw a most edifying moral from the doom of the sinner. The music to this finale is of matchless beauty and interest, but modern sentiment will not hear of so grievous an anti-
The music of 'Don Giovanni' has so often been discussed, that brief reference to its more salient features will be all that is necessary. Gounod has written of it: 'The score of "Don Giovanni" has influenced my life like a revelation. It stands in my thoughts as an incarnation of dramatic and musical impeccability,' and lesser men will be content to echo his words. The plot is less dramatically coherent than that of 'Le Nozze di Figaro,' but it ranges over a far wider gamut of human feeling. From the comic rascality of Leporello to the unearthly terrors of the closing scene is a vast step, but Mozart is equally at home in both. His incomparable art of characterisation is here displayed in even more consummate perfection than in the earlier work. The masterly way in which he differentiates the natures of his three soprani—Anna, a type of noble purity; Elvira, a loving and long-
'Così fan tutte,' his next work, was produced at Vienna in January, 1790. It has never been so successful as its two predecessors, chiefly on account of its libretto, which, though a brisk little comedy of intrigue, is almost too slight to bear a musical setting. The plot turns upon a wager laid by two young officers with an old cynic of their acquaintance to prove the constancy of their respective sweethearts. After a touching leave-
Mozart's next opera, 'La Clemenza di Tito,' was hastily written, while he was suffering from the illness which in the end proved fatal. The libretto was an adaptation of an earlier work by Metastasio. Cold and formal, and almost totally devoid of dramatic interest, it naturally failed to inspire the composer. The form in which it was cast compelled him to return to the conventions of opera seria, from which he had long escaped, and altogether, as an able critic remarked at the time, the work might rather be taken for the first attempt of budding talent than for the product of a mature mind. The story deals with the plotting of Vitellia, the daughter of the deposed Vitellius, to overthrow the Emperor Titus. She persuades her lover Sextus to conspire against his friend, and he succeeds in setting the Capitol on fire. Titus, however, escapes by means of a disguise, and not only pardons all the conspirators, but rewards Vitellia with his hand. The opera was produced at Prague on the 6th of September, 1791, and the cold reception which it experienced did much to embitter the closing years of Mozart's life.
'Die Zauberflöte,' his last work, was written before 'La Clemenza di Tito,' though not actually produced until September 30, 1791. The libretto, which was the work of Emanuel Schikaneder, is surely the most extraordinary that ever mortal composer was called upon to set.
At the opening of the opera, the Prince Tamino rushes in, pursued by a monstrous serpent, and sinks exhausted on the steps of a temple, from which three ladies issue in the nick of time and despatch the serpent with their silver spears. They give Tamino a portrait of Pamina, the daughter of their mistress, the Queen of Night, which immediately inspires him with passionate devotion. He is informed that Pamina has been stolen by Sarastro, the high-
The libretto of the 'Die Zauberflöte' is usually spoken of as the climax of conceivable inanity, but the explanation of many of its absurdities seems to lie in the fact that it is an allegorical illustration of the struggles and final triumph of Freemasonry. Both Mozart and Schikaneder were Freemasons, and 'Die Zauberflöte' is in a sense a manifesto of their belief. Freemasonry in the opera is represented by the mysteries of Isis, over which the high-
Of Mozart's work as a whole, it is impossible to speak save in terms which seem exaggerated. His influence upon subsequent composers cannot be over-