an Excessive Demand

“Either it works or breaks” – Leopold Mozart wishes for the impossible

La finta semplice: Giacinta, Ninetta, Fracasso and Simone

Theater an der Wien, Vienna 2007 Photo: Armin Bardel / Theater an der Wien
1768
Salzburg
La finta semplice: Giacinta, Rosina, Ninetta, Fracasso, Don Polidoro and Simone

La finta semplice: Giacinta, Rosina, Ninetta, Fracasso, Don Polidoro and Simone

Theater an der Wien, Vienna 2007 Photo: Armin Bardel / Theater an der Wien

In 1768 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was 12 years old - a child genius, without question. But he was by far not the only composer in Vienna. A certain Antonio Salieri rose to fame, at 19 years far more experienced. But father Leopold was determined to prove the genius of his son at all costs. On a mere suggestion by Emperor Joseph II – but without an official commission – he demanded that Wolfgang compose his first comical Italian opera. It is entitled “La Finta Semplice”.

Highly confusing confusion in love – little Wolfgang has not a clue, yet

Wolfgang, then a child, was unable to cope. He gave his best, but his characters were wooden at best. Nevertheless: his achievement is undeniable. 3 acts, 26 arias and an introductory symphony tell the story of the master of a palace, Cassandro, his brother Polidoro and his sister Giacinta, who live in a palace in the countryside near Cremona. In addition to this Captain Francesco, his sergeant Simone and his sister Baroness Rosina get involved in the plot. Francesco falls in love with Giacinta, Simone with her maid Ninetta. But Cassandro is unwilling to give his blessing for the planned marriages. He only agrees after several deceptions transpire. All’s well that ends well.

The premiere of “La Finta Semplice” had to be postponed time and time again. Father Leopold flew into a rage and blamed the Viennese for not acknowledging Wolfgang’s talent. He complained about being forced to struggle against “beasts in the shapes of men”. Of course this behaviour did not gain him any friends in the Viennese society. He was considered unyielding and bothersome. As a result, the Mozarts were not invited to receptions at the homes of the rich and beautiful. Only the commission for “Bastien and Bastienne” by the physician Franz Anton Mesmer rekindled hope. Two years would pass before Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his next opera…