Wednesday, April 28, 2010

People: Baroness Martha Elisabeth von Waldstätten & Mozart's Red Coat

In the year 1781, when Mozart first arrived in Vienna, he was introduced to a Baroness who lived in the Leopoldstadt, (a suburb of Vienna), and who was thirty-seven at the time. Elisabeth Waldstätten was estranged from her husband, whose estate was not far from Vienna in the village of Klosterneuburg. The Baroness, who was an excellent pianist took an instant liking to Mozart and invited him to her home in the Leopoldstadt to celebrate his name day, which was on October 31st. That evening when everyone was getting ready for bed, he was surprised to hear out his window, six musicians playing his Serenade for Winds (K. 375). They had been paid-for and sent by the Baroness as a gift for Mozart's enjoyment.

The Baroness was known for "educating" young women--sort of a private finishing school--in her home in the Leopoldstadt. In the following months, after Mozart's then fiancé, Constanze Weber, quarreled with her mother, Mozart took her to the Baroness' to live for several weeks. Then, in August of 1782, when Mozart and Constanze were married, it was the Baroness who hosted their wedding dinner in her home. It was also the Baroness to whom Mozart wrote of a lovely red coat that would go elegantly with some fine mother of pearl buttons with gold stones.

"I really must have a coat like that, as it's worth it just for the buttons that I've been hankering after for some time ... They're mother-of-pearl with some white stones around the edge and a beautiful yellow stone in the centre."
The Baroness had the coat made as a gift for Mozart.

Mozart wrote to his father, Leopold, of the Baroness Waldstätten, and in the spring of 1785, when Leopold visited his son and Constanze, in Vienna, he met the Baroness and grew quite fond of her.

In So Faithful a Heart we see Nancy, Mozart, and the tenor, Michael Kelly with the Baroness at her husband's estate in Klosterneuburg, where it would not have been out of the ordinary for her to have stayed when her husband was away.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Music: Handel, Lascia Ch'io Pianga from Rinaldo

In Chapter Six of So Faithful a Heart a poignant moment occurs between Nancy and Wolfgang when she sings Handel's Lascia Ch'io Pianga during an impromptu concert in the Baroness Waldtstätten's music salon at her estate in Klosterneuburg.

     “It’s your turn, Nancy, dear. We’ve not heard from you yet,” Elisabeth said as she slipped her arm through Nancy’s and led her to the harpsichord.
     Mozart turned and walked to the wine table to pour himself another glass as Michael moved from the fortepiano to take a seat to listen.
     “Why don’t you sing that ravishing little aria that you sang for me the other day?” she suggested as she gracefully positioned herself at the keyboard. “I’ll accompany you.”
     “What was it you sang, Nancy? We’d love to hear you perform it for us,” Michael said cheerfully as he made his way to a comfortable, overstuffed settee.
     Mozart, who stood with his back turned, teased, “It’s probably a bawdy little pub song that she learned back in England!” But almost before he could finish his sentence, the Baroness began to play. He stood motionless as he heard the opening notes and instantly recognized the introductory chords of the continuo. He was overtaken with emotion as he remembered the day at the Baron van Swieten’s home when he suggested to Nancy that one day she should sing this aria for him, for it was on that day he realized he had begun to fall in love with her.
     “Lascia ch’io pianga, mia cruda sorte…
     He turned around, his gaze intense and fixed upon her.
     “…e che so spiri, la liberta!” Her voice was plaintive and full of longing. She understood perfectly well the suffering of which she sang. “Let me weep over my cruel fate, for I long for freedom. I pray for mercy for my sufferings!”
     Mozart stood transfixed, overcome with tenderness for this young woman who stole his heart in that very moment.
     “Il duolo ingfranga, queste ritorte, de miei martiri, sol per pieta!"
     Their gaze met across the divide as she sang to him.
     “Have pity! Shatter my chains out of mercy for my suffering!”
     When she finished there was only silence. She had ripped her heart from herself and held it out for everyone in the room to see. Finally Michael broke the silence by quietly suggesting to the Baroness that they take a turn around the rose garden, leaving Mozart and Nancy alone in the salon.
     Nancy, who remained stationed by the harpsichord, watched intently as Mozart sat his wine glass on the table and silently crossed the room toward her. As he drew nearer, she saw the tears that pooled in his eyes and her heart began to race once again as she felt the blush return. He stood close to her, barely breathing, and gently enveloped her in his arms, pulling her to him. She wrapped her arms softly around his neck and closed her eyes as he kissed her tenderly on the forehead. There they stood silently, for several moments holding one another in their arms. Then, without a word, he took her by the hand and led her out of the salon, into the great hall and up the stairs to her bedchamber, quietly closing the door behind them.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Places: Klosterneuburg, Austria

Another one of the places featured in So Faithful a Heart is the estate of  Baroness Elisabeth Waldstätten , which was located just outside the village of Klosterneuburg, about five miles north of Vienna. Located in the hilly wine country, Klosterneuburg is home to a large Augustinian Monastery that was established in 1108.

Klosterneuburg was founded by Margrave Leopold III and developed in conjunction with its famous monastery. Leopold III and later Leopold VI (the latter only during part of his reign) had their residences there. From 1938 to 1954, it constituted the 26th district of Vienna. Today, it is a site of industry and a suburb of Vienna. The well-known Essl Museum of contemporary art is also on display in the town.

On a hill rising directly from the banks of the Danube stand the buildings (erected in 1730–1834) of the Augustine canonry, founded in 1114 by the Margrave (Saint) Leopold III of Babenberg, the patron saint of Austria. This order is one of the oldest and richest of its kind in Austria; it owns much of the land upon which the north-western suburbs of Vienna stand. Among the points of interest within it are the old chapel of 1318, with Leopold's tomb and the Verdun Altar, dating from the 12th century, the treasury and relic-chamber, the library with 30,000 volumes and numerous manuscripts, the picture gallery, the collection of coins, the theological hall, and the winecellar, containing an immense tun like that at Heidelberg. There are some excellent vintners in Klosterneuburg, but today the city is tightly linked to Vienna and houses some of the most affluent citizens of Lower Austria.

Information source: Wikipedia

I found a video on YouTube made by a couple traveling in Austria. It features some lovely images of the village and Monastery.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The 18th Century: Freemasonry & the Age of Enlightenment

The early part of the 18th century was known as the Age of Reason, for it was during this period that great advances in science and philosophy began to overcome much of the superstition found in religion. And although people were reluctant to give up their traditional Christian beliefs, they began to come into open conflict with the church over matters of faith vs. reason. By the late 18th century the Age of Enlightenment was in full play with its philosophies of equality, liberty, and justice and out of these radical new ideas and philosophies were born both the American and French Revolutions. Philosophers and poets like Goethe and Rousseau espoused these new philosophies, and playwrights such as Diderot, Beaumarchais, and Voltaire brought us comedies with the lower class servants overcoming the tyranny of the nobility, and outwitting and triumphing over their feudal Lords.

One of the most prominent and misunderstood movements of the 18th century was the fraternal order of Freemasons. Freemasonry espoused all of the philosophies and ideals of the Enlightenment and encouraged its members to pursue lives filled with integrity, honesty, and love for all humankind. However, because they were a secret society, they were often misunderstood and persecuted, most especially by the Catholic Church, whose theocratic power was slipping as the principles of liberty and equality began to take hold of Europe. Some of the most famous and influential men of the 18th century were Freemasons including Voltaire, John Locke, Haydn, Mozart, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones, and Paul Revere, to name only a few.

You can find an exhaustive history of Freemasonry at the Wikipedia History of Freemasonry site.

The following is the Mozart Masonic Cantata, Dir, Seele des Weltalls, O Sonne. 

To you, soul of the Universe, o sun.
We dedicate the first 
Of the festive songs!
O Mighty One! Without you we would not live,
From you alone we receive fertility, warmth and light!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Things: 18th Century Wigs & Hairstyles

At the beginning of and clear through to the mid 18th century, wigs were the height of fashion and were a statement of status, wealth, and prestige. Wigs were worn by the nobility whenever they appeared in public and by the time they hit their peak of fashion, women's wigs became quite ornate and even outlandish, sometimes sporting model ships and even real bird's nests.  However, by the late 1770s and early 1780s, wigs began to fall from fashion, with young men and women preferring to style and powder their own hair. Wigs then, were only worn at high court functions, and were far less garish and outlandish. By the end of the century the wig had fallen completely out of fashion and men were beginning to cut their hair in shorter styles, while women's hairstyles modeled the styles found on the statues of the women of ancient Greece and Rome.

The tail that hung from the back of both men's and women's hairstyles and wigs was called a queue (pronounced  cue), and for men, was symbolic of the length of their...well, you know. Mozart was known for his long, thick hair that hung clear to the middle of his back. Mozart's queue was generally clubbed and bound tightly with a black satin ribbon. When he was employed by the Prince Archbishop Colleredo of Salzburg, he was required to wear a white wig with the queue hidden in a black satin tie bag whenever he was at court, or when he played the organ in the cathedral. 

In the 1780s a high tariff on wig powder went into effect, causing people to abandon both the powdering of wigs as well as the powdering of their own hair, and thus gave way to a more natural look in both men's and women's hairstyles. Instead of ornamenting their hair, they ornamented their hats, which resulted in hats that were sometimes every bit as outlandish as the wigs had once been. 

By the end of the century and on into the early 19th century hairstyles for both men and women became more natural and closer cut. If a queue was worn, it was a short pig-tail and even that disappeared completely by 1800. The Regency period in fashion sought to imitate the ancient Greeks and therefore fashions were scaled down completely and became much softer and more subdued.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

People: Aloysia Weber Lange

In So Faithful a Heart, I present Aloysia Weber Lange, who was Mozart's sister-in-law, as one of the main antagonists in the story primarily because when Nancy Storace first arrived in Vienna, Aloysia was the most popular singer in town. Aloysia would have felt a tremendous rivalry towards Nancy for fickle Vienna's loyalties quickly shifted from the local German singers to the new and more fashionable Italian singers.

The following is from the Wikipedia article about Aloysia Weber:

Maria Aloysia Louise Antonia Weber (c. 1760 – 8 June 1839) was a German soprano, remembered primarily for her association with the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Born in either Zell im Wiesental or Mannheim, Aloysia Weber was one of the four daughters of the musical Weber family. Her three sisters were soprano Josepha Weber (1758–1819), who premiered the role of the Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute; Constanze Weber the wife of Mozart; and Sophie Weber. Her first cousin was the composer Carl Maria von Weber.

Aloysia grew up in Mannheim and later moved to Munich in 1778, where she made her operatic debut. Her salary at the Court Theater was 1000 florins per year; her father made 600. The following year she was engaged to sing in the National Singspiel in Vienna, a project of the Emperor Joseph II; the family moved together to Vienna in September, where the father worked briefly as a ticket-taker, but died suddenly only a month after their arrival. Aloysia continued in a fairly successful singing career in Vienna over the next two decades.

On October 31, 1780, she married Joseph Lange, an actor at the Court Theater who was also an amateur painter (he later produced a well-known portrait of Mozart). Since she was the main support of her family at the time, Lange agreed to pay her mother the sum of 700 florins per year on a continuing basis, as part of her marriage contract.

She moved to the Burgtheater in 1782, singing Italian opera. This position lasted only eight months, as she soon became "persona non grata owing to disagreements over salary and role distribution as well as missed performances." She continued to sing, however, at the Kärntnertortheater as well as in occasional roles at the Burgtheater. In 1795, she went on concert tour with her widowed sister Constanze. As of that year, she ceased to live with her husband Lange.

She spent her old age in Salzburg, in order to be near her surviving sisters Constanze and Sophie, who had moved there.

She was for some time a love interest of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This was around 1777, when Mozart spent some time in Mannheim, where he had hoped (in vain, it turned out) to find employment. Mozart expressed a desire to marry Aloysia, though it is not clear exactly how serious his intentions were, or whether they were reciprocated.
Mozart left Mannheim for several months for Paris on an unsuccessful job search. On his way back to Salzburg, he passed through Munich, where Aloysia was by now employed. According to the tale told in Georg Nikolaus von Nissen's draft biography of Mozart written in collaboration with Constanze, who married Nissen after Mozart's death, Mozart and Aloysia had a rather unpleasant encounter:

"When he entered, she appeared no longer to know him, for whom she previously had wept. Accordingly, he sat down at the piano and sang in a loud voice, 'Leck mir das Mensch im Arsch, das mich nicht will,' — 'The one who doesn't want me can lick my ass.'"

The vulgar phrase in Mozart's song corresponds to the English idiom "kiss my ass", and occurs frequently in Mozart's letters.

Mozart himself moved to Vienna in 1781, and later that year was for a time a lodger in the Weber home. The father Fridolin had died in 1779, Aloysia had not left home at the time of her marriage, and the mother Cäcilia and the remaining three sisters were taking in boarders to make ends meet. Mozart fell in love with the third daughter, Constanze. When the two married in 1782, Mozart became Aloysia's brother-in-law. Apparently there were no long-term hard feelings, as Mozart wrote a fair amount of music for Aloysia to sing.

The following is an insert aria composed for Aloysia by Mozart entitled Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio!. It's easy to tell from the music what a kind of a voice Aloysia had and why she was such a popular singer. Mozart most certainly was fond of her voice, for he composed several of his most beautiful works for her.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Music: Handel, But Who May Abide from Messiah

In Chapter Three of So Faithful a Heart, Nancy is invited by the Baron von Swieten to sing for one of his Sunday musicales, to sing several of the soprano solos in Handel's Messiah.

"At the conclusion of the overture, Michael stood and began to sing the first recitative and the accompanying air, Every Valley, which was followed by the chorus, And the Glory of the Lord. Nancy and Michael were amused as the group, made up primarily of Viennese men and women, with the occasional Italian, struggled with the English pronunciations. On several occasions they would stop the music and defer to their English guests on how to correctly pronounce some of the more difficult words. Then after Nancy stood and gave her rendition of the air But Who May Abide, she was greeted with thunderous applause by the gathering, who were most notably impressed by her skillful manipulation of the difficult melismatic passages in the prestissimo section." 
It is recorded  that Mozart was in regular attendance at these Sunday musicales hosted by the Baron in his home. Van Swieten was a lover of fugues and therefore was greatly enamored of the music of both Bach and Handel. He was a great admirer of Mozart's and introduced him to the music of Bach and Handel, as well as hired him to accompany his Sunday afternoon musicales, which were held in van Swieten's large library.

The aria, But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming, is generally sung by bass in most contemporary performances, but Handel originally composed it to be sung by soprano. The following recording features soprano Lorraine Hunt with Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Places: The Michaelerplatz

The Imperial Square in Vienna, known as The Michaelerplatz, is where a great deal of the action takes place in So Faithful a Heart, for it was there where all of the government buildings and offices were housed, along with the Imperial Palace, known as The Hofburg, the Burgtheater (small building on the far right), and St. Micahel's Parish (which was the Imperial parish). Just across from the Hofburg, across the platz (square), was a small lane which housed all of the Imperial apartments, including the building which housed the apartments used by the Italian Opera Company, which is now 9 Herrengasse (Street of the Lords).

The original Burgtheater was built in 1741 by Empress Maria Theresa, and was the theater which Emperor Joseph II dubbed The German Theater, until he closed down the German Opera Company in 1783 in favor of the more fashionable Italian Opera Company, for which Nancy was hired as the original prima buffa (first comedienne). It was here that Mozart's Italian comic opera Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), premiered on 1 May, 1786, in which Nancy sang the role of Susanna.

St. Michael's Church, dedicated to the Archangel Michael, is one of the oldest churches in Vienna, Austria, and also one of its few remaining Romanesque buildings. In the course of time, there have been many alterations, resulting in its present day aspect, unchanged since 1792. This church, close to the Michaeler wing of the Hofburg, used to be the parish church of the Imperial Court (it was then called called 'Zum heiligen Michael')

Over its long history, spanning more than eight centuries, this church has incorporated a medley of architectonic styles. The church is a late Romanesque, early Gothic building dating from about 1220-1240. There is a document, stating 1221 as the foundation date of the church, but this is most probably a 14th century forgery.

Number 9 Herrengasse was built from 1686 to 1689 for Count Mollard (Reichsgraf von Mollard). In 1760 it was bought by Count Franz Wenzel von Clary-Aldringen. Emperor Joseph II held his famous "round tables" here. It also housed the apartments in which some of the members of the Italian Opera Company resided, including Nancy Storace, Francesco Benucci (the original Figaro), and the Irish tenor, Michael Kelly.  Since 2005 it is used by the Austrian National Library and houses the Globe Museum, the Department of Music and the Department of Planned Languages and Esperanto Museum.

The following is a duet  from Act 1, scene 1 of Le Nozze di Figaro, which opened in the Burgtheater on 1 May, 1786.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Things: The 18th century guitar

Just as our modern piano has come through centuries of evolution, so has the guitar. What we now know as the classical six-stringed guitar actually developed from the ancient lyre and has gone through many stages giving us a variety of different strummed stringed instruments that eventually culminated in a variety of modern instruments bearing the name "guitar".

Nancy Storace was quite accomplished on the guitar (the English version of the guitar at the time was called a "cittern"), and Mozart utilized her talents when he composed a guitar part for Cherubino's aria "Voi che sapete" in Le nozze di Figaro.

In the 18th century, the guitar was a chamber instrument, meaning that it was played mostly in the home in small gatherings of friends and/or family, therefore very little "concert hall" music was composed for the instrument. What pieces we have are mostly from the early 18th century Baroque period, as it was an extremely popular chamber instrument all over Europe.

The six-stringed classical guitar that we know today, came from Spain, and evolved from what was known as a "double string" guitar (or what we know as a twelve string).

The following is a bullet list of the guitar's progression. (Thanks to this website: Evolution of the 19th Century Guitar.)

Key Points:
-The 6-course guitar arose first in Spain in the 1750's, with double strings (same as today's 12-string guitar)
-Merits of single vs. double stringing was debated on 5 and 6 course guitars since at least the 1770's
-String improvements allowed cheap and readily accessible wire-wound basses in the 1780's
-Wire-wound strings cut into gut frets and necessitated metal frets
-Wire-wound bass strings were overpowering with double courses and required single courses for balance
-New styles of playing in the late 18th century necessitated a strong bass and clean articulation
-Fan bracing with 3-7 fans was used since the 1750's in Spanish guitars; it was not invented by Torres
-String lengths on Baroque and early Spanish 6-string instruments were longer than a concert Ramirez
-Treble clef notation replaced tablature in the 1760's
-Guitar pitch was raised to standard orchestral pitch with the adoption of treble clef notation
-The French Lyre guitar was a critical step toward the adoption of the 6-string guitar
-Single stringing was done initially by leaving half the string slots empty
-6-string guitars were around since the mid 1770's, but were not popular until the late 1790's
-The 18th century was not a period of musical decline. It was extremely active.
-Some players used fingernails and some did not throughout history; very few players (e.g. Sor) used no-nails
-The 5-course guitar remained popular in France until the 1820's and co-existed with the 6-string guitar
-The 12-string 6 double-course guitar remained popular in Spain until the 1830's and co-existed with the 6-string guitar
-The English and Germans played a form of cittern in the late 18th century and not the guitar
-The Italian guitar was single-strung, with 5-7 strings

The following video features Baroque guitarist, Paul O'Dette performing works by Santiago de Murcia (1685-1732) on baroque guitar at the New York Guitar Festival's third biennial Guitar Marathon at the 92nd Street Y's Kaufman Auditorium.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

People: Mozart's greatest rival

In Peter Shaffer's famous play, Amadeus, we are given the impression that Mozart's greatest rival was the court composer Antonio Salieri. However, this is a myth that has it's beginnings in a  piece by the Russian poet and playwright, Alexander Pushkin, from his poetic drama Mozart and Salieri. In truth, Salieri was really no rival to Mozart at all, but instead, a friend and admirer of Mozart's who, if anything, only failed to present Mozart's music at court in order to preserve his own position with the Emperor.

Mozart's greatest and most bitter rival was the dashingly handsome Spanish composer, Vincente Martìn y Soler, who came to Vienna in 1785. It was Soler, who because he was angry that Mozart's new Italian comic opera, The Marriage of Figaro, was chosen over his piece, Una Cosa Rara, as the 1786 season opener, started an uprising against Mozart with certain members of the opera company and arranged most, if not all, of the cabals that occurred during Figaro's opening performance.

The following article was taken from Wikipedia.

Vicente Martín y Soler (May 2, 1754 – January 30, 1806) was a Spanish composer of opera and ballet. Although relatively obscure today, in his own day he was compared favorably with his contemporary, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as a composer of opera buffa. He has been called the Valencian Mozart.
He was born in Valencia and studied music in Bologna under Giovanni Battista Martini. His first opera was Il tutore burlato (1775), an adaptation of Giovanni Paisiello's La frascatana, which in turn was based on a play of the same title by Filippo Livigni. He had the libretto translated into Spanish and adapted it into zarzuela form (adding spoken dialogue) as La Madrileña o el tutor burlado, under which title it was performed in Madrid during 1778.
In 1777, he travelled to Naples, where he composed for the Teatro di San Carlo. During this period, he worked with choreographer Charles le Picq to compose four ballets d’actionLa Griselda (1779, derived from the libretto by Apostolo Zeno), I ratti sabini (1780), La bella Arsene (1781), andTamas Kouli-Kan (1781, an interpretation of Vittorio Amedeo Cigna-Santi's libretto). He also worked with Zeno on an opera seriaAndromaca, in 1780. In addition, he composed two mezzocarattere ballets, La sposa persiana (1778) and Il barbiere di Siviglia (1781, based on the play by Beaumarchais). At Naples he also worked with court librettist, Luigi Serio, on the composition of opera seria, producing Ifigenia (1779) andIpermestra (1780).
In 1785 he moved to Vienna, where he enjoyed great success with three operas composed to texts by Lorenzo Da Ponte, who was simultaneously collaborating with Mozart and Antonio Salieri. These three comedies were Una cosa rara (1786, based on the play La luna de la sierra by Luis Vélez de Guevara); Il burbero di buon cuore (1786, based on the play by Carlo Goldoni); and L'arbore di Diana (1787). He is credited with introducing, inUna cosa rara, the waltz to Vienna; and a melody from the same work is quoted by Mozart in the banquet scene in Act 2 of Don Giovanni (1787).
In 1788, Soler was invited to the Russian court at St. Petersburg, where he wrote three Russian language operas, The Unfortunate Hero Kosmetovich (1789, libretto written in part byCatherine the Great), Melomania (1790), and Fedul and his Children (1791, with Vasili Pashkevich). Moving to London for the 1795 season, he provided three more Italian language operas: La capricciosa corretta (libretto again by Lorenzo Da Ponte, partly adapted from Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew); L'isola del piacere and Le nozze de' contadini spagnuoli. On return to St Petersburg, he wrote his last opera, La festa del villaggio (1798).
He also wrote a number of tragic ballets during his residence as Court Composer there, including Didon abandonée (1792), Amour et Psyché (1793, based on Psyché by MolièreCorneille and Philippe Quinault), Tancrède (1799) and Le retour de Poliorcète (1799). He died, still in post, in 1806.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The 18th Century: The language of the fan

In the 18th century, the hand fan was both utilitarian, as well as decorative. There were all kinds of fans, from the extremely plain paddle fans made from paper or wood, to the most ornate made of the finest silk and adorned with fine embroidery or painting.

A lady was never seen in public without her fan, for not only was it used as a device for cooling oneself, but it served as a means of discrete and quiet communication. Both men and women understood the "language of the fan" and used it to communicate some very private sentiments while in the midst of some very public places.

The following is a list of some of the most commonly understood fan gestures.

A fan placed near the heart: "You have won my love."
A closed fan touching the right eye: "When may I be allowed to see you?"
The number of sticks shown answered the question: "At what hour?"
Threatening gestures with a closed fan: "Do not be so imprudent"
Half-opened fan pressed to the lips: "You may kiss me."
Hands clasped together holding an open fan: "Forgive me."
Covering the left ear with an open fan: "Do not betray our secret."
Hiding the eyes behind an open fan: "I love you."
Shutting a fully-opened fan slowly: "I promise to marry you."
Drawing the fan across the eyes: "I am sorry."
Touching the finger to the tip of the fan: "I wish to speak with you."
Letting the fan rest on the right cheek: "Yes."
Letting the fan rest on the left cheek: "No."
Opening and closing the fan several times: "You are cruel"
Dropping the fan: "We will be friends."
Fanning slowly: "I am married."
Fanning quickly: "I am engaged."
Putting the fan handle to the lips: "Kiss me."
Opening a fan wide: "Wait for me."
Placing the fan behind the head: "Do not forget me"
Placing the fan behind the head with finger extended: "Goodbye."
Fan in right hand in front of face: "Follow me."
Fan in left hand in front of face: "I am desirous of your acquaintance."
Fan held over left ear: "I wish to get rid of you."
Drawing the fan across the forehead: "You have changed."
Twirling the fan in the left hand: "We are being watched."
Twirling the fan in the right hand: "I love another."
Carrying the open fan in the right hand: "You are too willing."
Carrying the open fan in the left hand: "Come and talk to me."
Drawing the fan through the hand: "I hate you!"
Drawing the fan across the cheek: "I love you!"
Presenting the fan shut: "Do you love me?"

~From All About Fans

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Music: La scuola de gelosi by Antonio Salieri

In the opening chapters of So Faithful a Heart we learn that Nancy has just been hired by His Imperial Majesty, Joseph II of Austria, as the prima buffa (first comedienne), of his newly-formed Italian Opera Company. At the tender age of seventeen, Nancy travels from Venice (with her mother, Elizabeth, as her escort), to accept her position in the Austrian capital of Vienna. Upon her arrival she is given three days to rest and orient herself to her new surroundings before she is to report to the first rehearsals at the Burgtheater.

The opera that Nancy premiered was Antonio Salieri's La scuola de gelosi (The School of Jealousy), in which she took the role of the Countess Bandiera.  The plot of the opera involves love intrigues, attempted seductions and provocations to jealousy between members of the three different social strata: the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie and the working class, which was typical for plots in the early to late 1780s.

For the Viennese premiere, Salieri composed a new grand aria especially for Nancy, entitled Ah sia gia de' miei sospiri. It is sung here by the great Italian mezzo-soprano, Cecelia Bartoli.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Places: Mozart's music room in the Figarohaus

Of all the apartments in which Mozart resided while he lived in Vienna, the Figarohaus is probably the best-known. Originally known as the Camesina House, it was renamed the Figarohaus years later because this was the apartment where Mozart lived when he composed his famous and beloved Italian comic opera Le Nozze di Figaro.

The room that has been attributed as Mozart's music room had originally served as a small chapel for the noble Camesina family who originally built the house 300 years before Mozart. Years later, the building was sold and split into several apartments, cutting the chapel in half, but leaving the original marble walls and the ornate ceiling for which this particular room is famous.

Several scenes take place in this room in So Faithful a Heart, among them the scene where Mozart rehearses with Nancy for an upcoming Lenten concert performance of his opera Idomeneo, in which Nancy is to sing the role of Ilia.

     It was a frigged January afternoon as Mozart sat in the music room of his apartment at his fortepiano, rehearsing with Nancy, Ilia’s Act Three aria, in which she asks the breezes to carry her confession of love to Idamante, who has gone to battle the sea serpent. The warmth of Nancy’s voice seemed to soften the chill in the air which had invaded the room from outside, and he didn’t seem to notice the white puffs of steam that poured from her mouth as she exhaled.
     "Zeffiretti lusinghieri, Deh volate al mio tesoro: E gli dite, ch'io l'adoro, Che mi serbi il cor fedel." (Gently caressing breezes, fly to my beloved. Tell him that I adore him and keep him faithful.)
     “That’s it, Nancy! Smoooothly…yes…yes,” he coached as he raised his hand in the air. “Lovely…hold that now…crescendo…now let it trail off…yes!” He stopped playing and sighed, “Oh how I wish you could have been my original Ilia! How Munich would have adored you, Nancy!”

The Figarohaus stands now as one of the most popular museums in Vienna. If you ever have the opportunity to travel there, you'll definitely want to put it on your list of places to see!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Things: Mozart's Fortepiano

The piano that Mozart played upon wasn't like our modern pianos. Mozart's favorite piano, the one he had built in 1780 by the famous fortepiano designer/builder, Anton Walter, was considerably smaller and lighter than the modern piano. Mozart took it with him whenever he played a concert in Vienna.

The fortepiano has leather-covered hammers and thin, harpsichord-like strings. It has a much lighter case construction than the modern piano and, except for later examples of the early nineteenth century (already evolving towards the modern piano), it has no metal frame or bracing. The action and hammers are lighter, giving rise to a much lighter touch, which in good fortepianos is also very responsive. The range of the fortepiano was about four octaves at the time of its invention and gradually increased. Mozart (1756–1791) wrote his piano music for instruments of about five octaves.
~ Wikipedia

Of all of the Mozart piano concerti, this one is probably my favorite for a number of reasons, not the least being the wonderfully moody Adagio movement, composed in the languid and love-sick key of F-sharp minor. This is a wonderful recording, featuring John Elliot Gardner and The English Baroque Soloists, with Malcolm Bilson on the fortepiano. Now if you have a good ear for tuning and you're thinking that this sounds more like A flat than A major, you would be partially correct. During Mozart's time, the instruments were tuned to about A-435 or so, as opposed to the A-440 we are accustomed to today. It's somewhere around a quarter of a step lower than the A we use.  However, there's something magical about the authentic effect from pieces from this era that are played on period instruments.

I'm posting all three movements of this incredible concerto simply because all three movements merit a listen. So sit back and enjoy.

The Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major (K. 488) is a musical composition for piano and orchestra written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It was finished, according to Mozart's own catalogue, on March 2, 1786, around the time of the premiere of his opera, The Marriage of Figaro. It was one of three subscription concerts given that spring and was probably played by Mozart himself at one of these. The concerto is scored for piano solo and an orchestra consisting of one flute, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns and strings.

It has three movements:
Allegro in A major and common time.
Adagio in F-sharp minor and 6/8 time (in later editions, the tempo is listed as Andante).
Allegro assai in A and alla breve (in later editions, the tempo is listed as Presto).

The first movement is mostly joyful and positive with the occasional melancholic touches typical of Mozart pieces in A major.

The second, slow movement, in ternary form, is impassioned and somewhat operatic in tone. The piano begins alone with a theme characterized by unusually wide leaps. This is the only movement by Mozart in F sharp minor. The dynamics are soft throughout most of the piece. The middle of the movement contains a brighter section in A major announced by flute and clarinet that Mozart would later use to introduce the trio "Ah! taci ingiusto core!" in his opera Don Giovanni.

The third movement is a rondo, shaded by moves into other keys as is the opening movement (to C major from E minor and back during the secondary theme in this case, for instance) and with a central section whose opening in F sharp minor is interrupted by a clarinet tune in D major, an intrusion that reminds us, notes Girdlestone, that instrumental music at the time was informed by opera buffa and its sudden changes of point of view as well as of scene.  ~Wikipedia