Unrecognised and Ignored

Finally an Opera Commission – but Fate Strikes Again

The young Archduke Leopold (on the left) and his brother Emperor Joseph II (detail)

Oil painting by Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787) 1769 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) Source: Wikimedia
The last portrait of Mozart painted during his lifetime presumably in Munich

The last portrait of Mozart painted during his lifetime presumably in Munich

c. 1790 (Gemäldegalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) Source: Wikimedia

Finally Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart received the long coveted commission for an opera from the emperor: Così Fan Tutte after a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. While he was working on it, his fifth child, a daughter, was born, but did not survive longer than a few hours. His wife Constanze required another stay at a health spa and money was dwindling. The situation was far from being rosy. In addition to this, Mozart’s patron Emperor Joseph II died before seeing the premiere of the commissioned opera. Another blow of fate.

Times in the Habsburgian Empire were bad. The revolution raged in France and Leopold II succeeded his older brother Joseph II on the throne. He was not widely known as a lover of music, Mozart’s works held little appeal for him. Dark prospects for a crestfallen Mozart. Again and again his hopes for commissions were foiled and his music misunderstood. And Mozart hated to give music lessons. He was forced to act.

To the Imperial Coronation in Frankfurt

Leopold II was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in Frankfurt in 1790. The 'who's who' of the Viennese musical scene all attended, but nobody asked Mozart to come. Mozart went into debt, pawned his silver and travelled to Frankfurt on his own. In his satchel he carried two new piano concertos, the “Coronation Concertos”. It was to be his last journey.

Frankfurt did not yield the desired success either. Famous names like Salieri were in high demand, nobody wanted to listen to the music of the dwarfish, unattractive Mozart. Dispirited and exhausted he returned to Vienna with empty pockets