During the latter part of the eighteenth century, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart innovated new perspectives for opera history, imbuing his operas with portrayals of profound matters of the heart, all set against the explosive social and political struggles of Enlightenment Europe. It was the beginning of Mozart and Opera history.
Mozart became the first psychologist of opera history, conveying mood, situation, and character through his ingenious musical inventions. He unmasked his characters and exposed their souls, his musical characterizations providing a truthful expression of their virtues, flaws, and profound human sentiments.
Mozart (1756-1791) was born in Salzburg, Austria. His life-span was brief, but his musical achievements were phenomenal and monumental. He became one of the most important and inspired composers in Western opera history: music seemed to gush forth from his creative soul like fresh water from a spring. With his early death at the age of thirty-five, one can only dream of the musical treasures that might have materialized from his music pen.
Along with such masters as Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven, Mozart was one of those three “immortals” of classical music Opera history. Superlatives about Mozart are inexhaustible: Tchaikovsky called him “the music Christ”; Haydn, a contemporary who revered and idolized him, claimed he was the best composer he ever knew; Schubert wept over “the impressions of a brighter and better life he had imprinted on our souls”; Schumann wrote that there were some things in the world about which nothing could be said: much of Shakespeare, pages of Beethoven, and Mozart’s last symphony, the forty-first in opera history.
Richard Wagner, who exalted the emotive power of the orchestra in his music dramas, assessed Mozart’s symphonies: “He seemed to breathe into his instruments the passionate tones of the human voice … and thus raised the capacity of orchestral music for expressing the emotions to a height where it could represent the whole unsatisfied yearning of the heart.” Although Mozart’s career was short, his musical output was phenomenal by any standard: more than 600 works that include forty-one symphonies, twenty-seven piano concertos, more than thirty string quartets, many acclaimed quintets, world-famous violin and flute concertos, momentous piano and violin sonatas, and, of course, a substantial legacy of sensational operas. Mozart’s father, Leopold, an eminent musician and composer in his own right, became the teacher and inspiration to his exceptionally talented and incredibly gifted prodigy child. The young Mozart quickly demonstrated a thorough command of the technical resources of musical composition: at age three he went to the harpsichord and played tunes he had just heard; at age four he began composing his own music; at age six he gave his first public concert; by age twelve he had written ten symphonies, a cantata, and an opera; and at age thirteen he toured Italy, where in Rome, he astonished the music world by writing out the full score of a complex religious composition after one hearing.