The First Mozart Opera

At the age of ten Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart received his first paid composition commission: “The Obligation of the First and Foremost Commandment”

The Obligation of the First and Foremost Commandment

Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro 1991 Photo: Studio Amati Bacciardi
1767
Salzburg
The Obligation of the First and Foremost Commandment

The Obligation of the First and Foremost Commandment

Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro 1991 Photo: Studio Amati Bacciardi
The Obligation of the First and Foremost Commandment

The Obligation of the First and Foremost Commandment

Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro 1991 Photo: Studio Amati Bacciardi

Leopold Mozart had been travelling with little Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister Nannerl for three years. The royal courts of France, England and Holland had bid the two child prodigies a warm welcome and celebrated their performances. Back in Salzburg, Wolfgang received his first paid commission from Prince-Archbishop Sigismund von Schrattenbach in 1767. He was tasked with setting the oratory “The Obligation of the First and Foremost Commandment” (KV 45) to music.

The occasion for this commission was the tradition to perform an oratory with a German text for the annual lent. The work is created in three parts. Mozart composed the first, Michael Haydn and Anton Adlgasser the remaining two. Only Mozart’s part has survived to this day. The libretto for the first Mozart opera was written by Ignatz Anton von Weiser. The first part of the work was performed on March 12, 1767, at the residential palace of the prince-archbishop; part two on March 19 and finally part three on March 26.

Allegedly, little Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was locked into a room by the archbishop to prevent Mozart’s father from influencing his son. Mozart’s finished composition comprised 208 pages of note. It included a symphony, eight arias and a final trio. The little boy put all his effort into the work and was granted exclusive authorship as acknowledgment of his accomplishment by the archbishop.

Allegorical Story

The acting characters are the allegorical figures of Charity, Justice, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the World and Christ. The Spirit of Christ sends out Charity and Justice to extract the initially unenthusiastic Christians from the influence of the Spirit of the World.

“The Obligation of the First and Foremost Commandment” was the first success for the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Soon he would be allowed to compose his next opera…