Breaking Away

The entry from last week left off with Mozart freshly returned to Salzburg from his disastrous trip to Paris. Mozart again found himself, at 24, chaffing under the twin yokes of his father Leopold (who had decidedly not forgiven his son for allowing his mother to die in Paris for want of medical attention) and his employer, the Archbishop. Although the Archbishop surely relished having a monopoly on the “genius that God allowed to be born in Salzburg”, he did allow Mozart to accept a commission from the Elector of Bavaria for a new opera. To date, Mozart’s operas had been largely Italianite in style, dating back to and influenced heavily by his studies during his teenaged visit to Italy.

But in Paris, Mozart had seen Gluck’s operas and had been inspired. Finding Italian opera wanting, Gluck had sought to amp up the drama by making the music subservient to the plot. But if Gluck had been good at this, Mozart was an entirely different thing altogether. The opera that Mozart created, Idomeneo, ushered in a new phase of Mozart’s life and career. A huge success at its debut in Munich, Mozart’s ambitions could no longer be satisfied in Salzburg. Freeing himself at last of his employer and, to great extent, his father, Mozart headed to Vienna, bouyed by the gusts of Idomeneo’s success in his sails.

This is Mozart in 1780. The boy is no more. He is now, without a doubt, the very real deal.

W.A. Mozart, Idomeneo (excerpts)

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