Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You know you've got something special when...

a reviewer comes to you and says that they've heard a lot of good things about your book and they ask you if they can review it!

There are two blog reviews scheduled for this summer--one by Eliza Knight at History Undressed and the second by Martina Kunz at She Read a Book. Check back later for dates and links! In the meantime, if you've not yet read So Faithful a Heart, there's no time like the summer for sitting in your favorite chair or lawn chair with a good book! It's available for purchase at all of the most popular online retail outlets. Check the column on the left of this blog for the link to your favorite online bookstore! And if you have read it and enjoyed it, I would most certainly appreciate it if you would go to one of the online outlets and leave a short review!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Places: Vienna: The Prater

In 18th Century Vienna, the Prater, a park in the Leopoldstadt, was the center of all sorts of social activities, entertainments, and gatherings. There were several coffee houses, restaurants, casinos, taverns as well as large expansive lawns and ponds with boats. Horse racing was a center attraction on the Hauptallee (the main avenue), as well as booths and pony rides during Winter Carnival. It was a favorite leisure attraction for both young and old, courting couples, as well as families. It was while Mozart and Constanze (his wife of only two days), were strolling along the Hauptallee, walking their little dog, that Emperor Joseph stopped and conversed with them and congratulated them on their recent marriage.

The following history is from Wikipedia:

The Wiener Prater is a large public park in Vienna's 2nd district (Leopoldstadt). The Wurstelprater amusement park, often simply called "Prater", stands in one corner of the Wiener Prater and includes the Wiener Riesenrad.

The area that makes up the modern Prater was first mentioned in 1162, when Emperor Friedrich I gave the land to a noble family called de Prato. The word "Prater" was first used in 1403, originally referring to a small island in the Danube north of Freudenau, but was gradually extended to mean the neighbouring areas as well. The land changed hands frequently until it was bought by Emperor Maximilian II in 1560 to be a hunting ground. To deal with the problem of poachers, Emperor Rudolf II forbade entry to the Prater. On April 7 1766, Emperor Joseph II declared the Prater to be free for public enjoyment, and allowed the establishment of coffee-houses and cafés, which led to the beginnings of the Wurstelprater. Throughout this time, hunting continued to take place in the Prater, ending only in 1920.

In 1873, a World Exhibition was held in the Prater, for which a large area of land was set aside, centered on the Rotunda, which burnt down in 1937. This land now houses the Messegelände (exhibition centre).

In 2004, major renovations to the Wurstelprater began, and a new underground railway line was finished and brought into service on May 11, 2008, which includes three stops along the Prater (see Vienna U-Bahn). The railway station Praterstern has been in operation for a long time and is only a few dozen metres away from an entrance to the park.

The overall area of the park has also been reduced by the building of the Ernst-Happel-Stadion (Austria's national stadium), the Südosttangente (Austria's busiest piece of motorway) and racecourse.

From Chapter 10 of So Faithful a Heart:

     The hot July sun bore down on the lawn as Mozart and his little family lazed under a large Linden tree near a pond at the Prater. The park was abuzz with activity: children playing games on the lawn, mothers pushing their infants in prams, couples sitting on blankets, eating Italian ices, roast chicken, fresh strawberries, and fresh mozzarella cheese with basil on sliced tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil.
     Constanze watched as baby Karl, who was a little over ten months old and who was already beginning to toddle, pulled himself up on the lawn and tried to chase the butterflies that flitted by, only to fall onto his backside when his chubby little legs couldn’t carry him fast enough. This was the indolent summer Mozart had promised himself and his family and he was enjoying it to its fullest with no guilt or remorse. As he lay upon the blanket in his stocking feet, having kicked off his shoes, he read, another luxury that he’d promised himself.

This is the Rondo movement from Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A major. I chose it for this post because, to me, it evokes a cheerful stroll through the park.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

People: Constanze Weber Mozart: The perfect wife?

Constanze Mozart (born Constanze Weber) (5 January 1762 in Zell im Wiesental, Germany – 6 March 1842 in Salzburg, Austria) was the wife of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

I don't wish to go into the biographical aspects of Constanze's life in this post, mainly because it would just be boring. Her biography is readily available in other places on the web. (If you're interested, the Wikipedia article on her is quite good, although it leans heavily in her defense.) You can also read about some of the controversy surrounding Constanze in her handling of Mozart's last work (uncompleted), his Requiem in D minor, in this Wikipedia article.

Much controversy has existed throughout the last two-hundred years over the relationship that Mozart had with his wife, Constanze. From the personal testimonies of those who knew the Mozarts  in the last few years of Mozart's life, the marriage seemed to be strained, at best. There are many conflicting and confusing reports, many of them originating from the Mozarts themselves. Constanze's own testimony from years later is difficult to trust, for most of it was given years after Mozart's death under the auspices of her second husband, Georg Nissen, who was actively working to clean up Mozart's sullied reputation, as he was working on Mozart's biography. It is believed, with much certainty, that Constanze and Nissen destroyed most of Constanze's letters to Mozart, as well as many of Mozart's to her, only keeping those that held her in a favorable light. And of the ones that were kept, certain words and entire paragraphs have been blacked out.

It is no secret to anyone who has studied Mozart's life, that his father, Leopold, despised Constanze, and in the early months of their marriage, Mozart made a concerted effort to convince his father that Constanze would make a good wife for him. Leopold's reasons for disliking Constanze were based on his belief that the Weber family were opportunists who were only looking for monetary gain and that marriage and obligation to her would only drag him down and keep him from reaching his full potential.

In the early years of their marriage, shortly after the birth of their first child, Mozart and Constanze took an extended trip to Salzburg. The trip had two purposes:  The first, for Mozart to meet with a librettist who was working on an Italian libretto for Mozart to compose an opera for Emperor Joseph's new Italian opera company, and the second, for Leopold and Nannerl (Mozart's older sister), to meet Constanze and possibly form a better opinion of her.  Leopold knew that while Constanze was the daughter of a music copyist and had a solid musical education, she was out-shined by her older sisters, Josepha and Aloyisa (the latter with whom Mozart had a love affair a couple of years earlier and who later scorned him). Constanze was, for the most part, largely uneducated and common, and Leopold considered her a poor and uneven match for his brilliant, highly educated, well-traveled, and worldly son. So while they were in Salzburg, Mozart created an opportunity to show off Constanze's musical abilities by dragging out bits of an unfinished mass and adding more to it, creating a portion for Constanze to sing her herself, and dedicating it to her. Mozart's Great Mass in C minor has gone down through history as one of his greatest sacred works, some believing it to be even greater than his Requiem. Although many have believed that the entire soprano solo was composed for Constanze to sing, clearly it is not, for most of the solo sections in this mass, especially in the opening Kyrie, would have been entirely too difficult for her to manage. It is most likely that Constanze sang only the Et Incarnatus est, which while one of the loveliest and most lyrical sections in the entire mass, is not nearly as technically demanding as the rest.

Together, the Mozarts had six children, of which only two survived infancy into adulthood. Mozart never knew his sons, Karl and Franz (whom Constanze later named Wolfgang, Jr. and called "Wowi", pronounced VOH-vee), as adults as Karl was only seven and Franz only months old when their father died on 5 December 1791. Clearly the sheer number difficult pregnancies which Constanze endured in the nine years they were together, as well as the steady stream of dead children, put a strain on the marriage.  It was during Constanze's fifth pregnancy that she developed an infection in a vein in one of her feet, most likely due to a swollen varicose vein that she may have injured by bumping her foot on some furniture. As a result, she was sent to the spa in Baden to take the waters. It was after this initial trip to Baden that Constanze started making frequent trips there alone, although she had made a full recovery from the ulcerated foot. She spent weeks at a time separated from her husband and rumors began to spread that she was having an affair with a Lieutenant who also frequented the spa. In one letter that Mozart wrote to his wife (obviously one of the ones that Constanze and Nissen didn't realize still existed after Mozart's death or it would surely have been destroyed), he told her that he had been hearing the rumors and he begged her to be "discreet".  And despite their obvious financial woes at the time, neither Constanze nor Mozart seemed to be concerned nor discontent with the fact that she spent so much time there, and that they had to finance and maintain two separate households for the better part of the last two years of Mozart's life.

Finally, in October of 1791, when Mozart became ill with a strep infection that had been going around Vienna, Constanze had to be summoned from Baden to care for her husband. Mozart never fully recovered from the infection, for it was only a few weeks later, in mid-November that he took to his bed with his final illness and died only two weeks later. Constanze was not in the same room with her husband when he died (although years later, she wrote in a statement that she dated 5 December 1791 that she had been with him in his final hours), but it was her younger sister, Sophie, who held him in her arms in those final, terrible and feverish moments. Constanze was not in attendance at his funeral. Later, when she accidentally knocked one of the copies of his death mask off of a table and shattered it, Constanze claimed that she didn't care about that "ugly old thing" anyway.

The following is a scene from Chapter 10 of So Faithful a Heart.

     He turned his head to watch Constanze as she sat on the lawn playing with their son, holding him in her lap and kissing his fat little fingers. She was a good wife and a good mother, and he cared for her a great deal, but she’d never ignited his soul. She was pretty enough with her large dark brown eyes and thick, straight, dark hair that hung like a drape. She was charming and sweet, with a playful sense of humor, very like his. But after he met Nancy, he found it difficult not to compare them and find his wife lacking.
     He thought back to the days when he’d rented a room from Constanze’s mother not long after he’d arrived in Vienna and split from Archbishop Colloredo’s service. Frau Weber saw opportunity to still bring Mozart into the family after the break-up with Aloysia and she manipulated things in such a way that he and Constanze often found themselves in tempting and compromising situations. Then when they finally succumbed and went too far with their petting, she forced him into a contract of marriage with her daughter, threatening to ruin him if he refused. He married Constanze in August of 1782 and Nancy arrived in Vienna the following January.
     “I shouldn’t have married,” he thought with regret. “If only I had waited six months.” 
     He had never known a woman like Nancy. She was independent, intelligent, educated, and outspoken. She possessed a wicked sense of humor, which played itself out beautifully both on the stage and off, with an air of confidence and strength that he had never observed in any woman he’d ever known. To him, she was a woman who thought like a man and that fascinated him. Then when they became friends he discovered the many things that they had in common, not the least being their mutual love and dedication to music. She was his musical peer in many respects and that was her greatest appeal.
     “How could I have resisted her? I’m only a man,” he thought as he picked up the book, opening it to where he’d left off.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Things: 18th century women's shoes

Women's shoes in the 18th century were made for both fashion and function. Working class women had to wear shoes that were more durable as well as comfortable because of the amount of time each day that was spent on their feet. For the noble and/or wealthy woman, shoes were as much of a fashion statement as any other aspect of their clothing, and were not primarily for function or comfort as much as aesthetics. Dancing shoes, of course, had to be comfortable as well as fashionable.

Women’s shoes in the 18th Century were divided into three categories: mules, or backless slippers, shoes, or closed foot gear, and pattens, outdoor shoe coverings which protected delicately made shoes. They had sharply pointed toes and high curved heels. Buckles were also a central attraction on women’s shoes. They were almost unchanging in shape (only narrowing the curved heels) from 1700 to 1780, when shoes took a dive to low heeled slippers. By the late 1790’s, heels disappeared entirely and the soft, flat, square toed slipper which dominated the next 50 years of women’s shoes had appeared.

Information: The Costumer's Manifesto

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The 18th Century: Social Dance

There are several scenes in So Faithful a Heart where social dancing takes center stage. Both Mozart and Nancy Storace were known as excellent dancers and were often seen at the balls and dances which were held in Vienna's many dance halls and court ballrooms.

The following paragraphs describe the development of social dancing in late 18th century Europe. (Taken from Dance Instruction Manuels-Late 18th Century Social Dance)

"In the late eighteenth century there was a departure from the complicated and often technically difficult danses à deux and a movement toward larger group dances, specifically figure dances called contredanses (also spelled contredances). Usually, but not always, these dances were designed for four couples facing in a square. Feuillet notation, which so beautifully aided dancers in learning the early Baroque dance repertory, was not efficient for notating the larger group dances.

Execution of the contredanse (known throughout France as the contredanse francaise) involved dancing a specific sequence of figures. Additional figures, called changes, usually twelve in number, alternated with the main figure of the dance--and the dance concluded when all the changes had been performed. These figure dances, called cotillon in England and the United States, were often performed with two- or four-bar step combinations, as were contredanses.

When Marie Antoinette arrived in Paris as queen to Louis XIV in 1774, she brought Viennese dances, including the contredanse allemande. It was performed in much the same manner as the contredanse francaise, except that at least one figure required partners to turn while changing arm positions. Both forms of contredanse were performed in France until the Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century (1789-1799)."

The following is a dance sequence taken from Chapter 13 of So Faithful a Heart. 
When they arrived at the palace, they were announced as they entered the ballroom, and greeted by the Emperor and his guests of honor. Mozart puffed up with pride as His Majesty complemented both of them, once again, on the successful opening of Figaro, and then he escorted his lovely Susanna to the middle of the floor to begin the allemande.

The ballroom at Laxenburg was decorated in typical ornate Baroque fashion, the walls lined with white Corinthian columns sporting gold sconces with heavy lead crystals hanging from each globe. The wall panels were ornately gilded on the edges and painted with lush, pastoral scenes in soft pastels, of lovely young men and women dancing and playing flutes and guitars. The ceilings were frescoed with pastel pink and blue skies and puffy white clouds with fat cherubs perched upon them, peering down to gaze upon the dancers on the floor below. Two enormous and ornate crystal chandeliers hung from the ceilings, illuminating the entire room with the bright but soft glow of the hundreds of candles contained in each of them.

All eyes were on Mozart and his pretty partner as they bowed and curtseyed to each another, and began to dance. As they fell into two lines, the ladies on one side and the gentlemen on the other, they turned shoulder to shoulder and stepped forward in sync several steps, before facing one another as the gentlemen took their partners by the hand and twirled them gracefully until they ended up on the opposite side. Then they all stepped to one side, the gentlemen to the right and the ladies to the left and, extending their hands across the divide, they took the hand of the lady or gentleman in front of them and made a skip-hop step to the right. Then the left-over lady and gentleman on the opposite ends skipped into the divide and took one another’s hands and faced forward to promenade down the middle of the two lines, each couple following suit until they were back in their original places with their original partners. Each time Nancy returned to Mozart, she beamed with delight.

Dance scenes from the 2005 film, Pride and Prejudice.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Places: Venice, Italy: Teatro San Samuele

The Teatro San Samuele, Venice was one of opera 's most prestigious among those active in the canal city (seven in all), during the eighteenth century . It was built in 1656 on commission from the Grimani family and was primarily intended for dramatic productions, and later, during the following century, operas and ballet.

Destroyed by fire in September 1747, it was rebuilt by the Grimani family who moved serious opera productions to the new and more elegant Teatro San Benedetto (St. Benét), and reserved the San Samuele stage for the productions of the new, and more fashionable opera buffa (Italian comic opera). The theater was rebuilt in record time and reopened in May of 1748. The stages were reduced from six to five orders but the original structure remained unchanged.

In the fall of 1782, Nancy Storace arrived in Venice, where she performed primarily in opera buffa productions on the San Samuele stage. It was while she was engaged there, that she was discovered by an emissary of His Majesty, Emperor Joseph II of Austria, and was hired as the prima buffa (first comedienne), of the Hofburg Theater stage (The Burgtheater), in Vienna. Nancy's last appearance in Venice was in Antonio Salieri's La scuola de'golsi, in which she appeared as the Contessa, during Carnival of 1783. It was shortly after, that she arrived in Vienna, and premiered on the Burgtheater stage in another production of Salieri's La scuola de'golsi, directed by Salieri, himself. By this point she was regarded as the most popular and highest-paid performer of her kind in all of Europe.

The following is a list of productions in which Nancy starred during tenure at Teatro San Samuele.

La pescatrice fedele by Pasquale Anfossi at Teatro San Samuele, Venice during Winter 1782-Spring 1783
I puntighi by Felice Alessandri at Teatro San Samuele, Venice during Winter 1782-Spring 1783
Il filosofo immaginari by Giovanni Paisiello at Teatro San Samuele, Venice during Winter 1782-Spring 1783
Le vendemie by Giuseppi Gazzaniga at Teatro San Samuele, Venice during Winter 1782-Spring 1783
La scuola de'golsi by Antonio Salieri, starring as La Contessa at Teatro San Samuele, Venice during Carnival 1783

Ah sia gia de' miei sospiri - La scuola de' gelosi - By Antonio Salieri, Sung by Mezzo Soprano, Cecilia Bartoli

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Music: Plasir d'amour

In one very tender scene from So Faithful a Heart, Nancy's brother walks in on her to find her playing her guitar and singing a very popular tune of the time. It was composed in 1780 by Jean Paul Égide Martini, (with whom Mozart studied for a short time when he was 14 years old while he and his father were touring in Italy), entitled Plasir d'amour (The Joys of Love). In the 20th century it was recorded by several pop ballad artists including Joan Baez in 1961, and Nana Mouskouri in 1997.

I listened to several recordings of the piece and I was never able to find one that I liked altogether, so I settled on the Mouskouri recording, which incorporates a more modern orchestration, but captures the mood and the spirit of the piece better than any other recording I could find. She sings it in the original French, so I have provided the English translation below.

The pleasure of love lasts only a moment
The pain of love lasts a lifetime.
I gave up everything for ungrateful Sylvia,
She is leaving me for another lover.
The pleasure of love lasts only a moment,
The pain of love lasts a lifetime.
"As long as this water will run gently
Towards this brook which borders the meadow,
I will love you", Sylvia told me repeatedly.
The water still runs, but she has changed.
The pleasure of love lasts only a moment,
The pain of love lasts a lifetime.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Stephen Storace, Part II

(This post is continued from June 5th, 2010.)

Both Nancy and Stephen found temporary work at the King's Theatre in London, but they found the atmosphere there inhospitable to them due to a group of native Italian musicians who were already well-established there. Nancy had returned to London with what she believed to be a secure agreement with Emperor Joseph to return to Vienna for the 1788/89 season, with the opportunity, perhaps, to extend her contract there for another four years. However, due to the escalations with Austria's war with Turkey, the contract fell through over a cut in her salary. She was offered half the salary she had been making when she left Vienna, so she politely refused. They both finally moved in 1789 to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which at this time was under the management of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. They were also heavily involved in working towards a commission for Mozart to come to London to compose and direct some Italian comic operas, as Mozart had expressed a strong desire to come with them to England when they returned in early 1787. His plans to return with them were thwarted, however, due to a series of tragic and unfortunate events, including the death of one child, as well as his father's refusal to care for his older, remaining son, Karl. And although they were eventually successful in obtaining a commission for Mozart, which was delivered to him in late 1790, he was unable to accept it. He died only a year later.

Stephen found his first big success at Drury Lane with an operetta (in the style of the German Singspieler with music and spoken dialouge), in the new "romantic" style of ghost-stories, gothic horror, and romance entitled, The Haunted Tower. It was a box-office sensation, selling-out for 50 nights in succession. No little part of the success was the performance of Michael Kelly in the male lead role. Up to this time, high notes in the male parts in the theatre had been crooned falsetto by performers who were more actors than singers. Kelly's aria to the ghost of the Haunted Tower - "Spirit Of My Sainted Sire!" included a top Bb which he took in full voice in the Italian style, and proved such a success that at most performances it was encored in full. This aria outlived the rest of Storace's output by decades, and was still being reprinted in parlour songbook anthologies for the amateur tenor a century later.

His next big success was with another operetta entitled No Song, no supper, which again, starred the Irish tenor, Michael Kelly, along with his sister, Nancy. No song became even more successful than The Haunted Tower, outselling it by almost double, and was the opera that closed both the careers of Michael Kelly and Nancy Storace on the same night in 1808.

1792 saw Storace produce the boldest of his operatic projects, Dido, Queen Of Carthage, with a libretto by Prince Hoare after Metastasio's Didone abbandonata. This was the only all-sung opera Storace produced in English - all his other works had spoken dialogue between the musical numbers. His sister regarded it as Stephen's finest work. However, for whatever reason, the piece proved unpopular with the public, and was withdrawn after a short run. The music was not thought worth printing commercially, with the result that not a note of this opera now survives, nor were any solo numbers from it printed separately.

Storace's final work was Mahmoud, Prince of Persia, but he never saw the premiere. He caught cold at rehearsals for "The Iron Chest", and died on the 15th or 16th of March 1796. Nancy Storace organised that the unfinished work was completed (Kelly claims to have had a hand in doing so, but it is more likely that he paid other hands to do it, since he freely admitted he couldn't read the bass clef. Most likely the work was finished and orchestrated by the Orchestra Leader, John Shaw, who was Kelly's collaborator on all his later projects). The work was given as a Benefit Performance for Storace's widow. "Mahmoud" survives, but it is clear that the completed version was very makeshift.

Although Storace's works were popular in their time, their failure to endure in performance is in part due to the financial caution of his employer, Sheridan. A legendarily shrewd man with money, Sheridan refused to allow any copies of the Storace's works to be circulated, for fear of pirate versions being performed from which no royalties would be paid. In fact history shows that Sheridan's best attempts failed, and pirated versions of Storace's works were playing in New York by the end of the century. However, it is assumed that the carefully-guarded scores and parts perished in the Drury Lane Theatre Fire. Only one opera survives complete in score and parts - "No Song, No Supper" (published in Musica Britannica editions, edited by Roger Fiske). The other works survive only in piano + voice vocal scores issued by Storace's publishers, Longman & Broderip. (A number of these scores were reprinted by Kalmus Edition in the 1970s in the USA, but all have been deleted and no details are available from Kalmus). The surviving vocal scores have clearly been prepared by an expert hand, and are extensively "cued" with the orchestral parts in smaller notes - it seems possible that Storace himself, or one of his closer assistants, must have prepared these vocal scores. There are, to date, no commercially-available recordings of any of Storace's operas. Storace is not known to have written any exclusively instrumental music, other than the overtures for his operas.

The character of Storace's music is preeminently English; but his early intercourse with Mozart gave him an immense advantage over his contemporaries in his management of the orchestra, while for the excellence of his writing for the voice he was no doubt indebted to the vocalization of his sister Ann (Nancy) Storace.

It is because of the works of Stephen Storace that we have what is known today as the Broadway Musical, for as the German Singspieler, made popular by Storace in England, gave way to the English operetta, greatly popularized by the late 19th century team of Gilbert & Sullivan, it made it's way to the United States, primarily to the New York Theater district where it evolved into the Broadway musical style.

The following is a soprano/tenor duet composed by Stephen Storace, most likely sung by his sister Nancy, and the Irish tenor Michael Kelly.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

People: Nancy's brother, Stephen Storace, Part I: Early Career & Vienna

There were very few, if any men in Nancy's life with whom she was more close than with her brother, Stephen. Stephen was born in London in the parish of St. Marylebone on April 4th, 1762. His father, Stephano, who met the Mozarts when they traveled to England in 1764-65, was impressed with the manner in which Leopold Mozart was educating his two young musical prodigies, Wolfgang and Nannerl, and decided to educate Stephen (and later Nancy), in the same manner. He gave Stephen instruction in the violin, harmony, composition, and keyboard and then later, as he mistrusted the quality of musical instruction available in London, he sent Stephen to Naples, to study at his alma mater, the Conservatorio di Sant' Onofrio when Stephen was around twelve years old. While in Naples, Stephen met the Welsh artist/painter, Thomas Jones and neglected his musical studies to go on several expeditions with him throughout Italy. While traveling with Jones, Stephen got himself into some mischief  that prompted Stephano to make the decision to travel back to Italy, along with then twelve-year-old Nancy (who was already an up-and-coming starlet on the musical stage), and his wife Elizabeth. He hoped to launch Nancy's stage career as well as bring his son back into line. It was while the entire Storace family was in Italy (sometime in 1780 or 1781), that Stephano Storace passed away and was buried in his hometown of Naples. Some months later, Stephen decided to return to England (most likely to settle his father's affairs there and perhaps to escape the nagging of his mother), and left his sister, Nancy, and mother in Italy to continue the promotion of Nancy's stage career.

In the fall of 1783, Nancy was summoned to Vienna, the capital of Austria, and the seat of the then Holy Roman Empire, by Emperor Joseph II, to serve as the prima buffa (first comedienne), of His Majesty's newly-formed Italian Opera company. Nancy arrived in Vienna with her mother, Elizabeth, in January of 1784 and was an immediate success. However, she ran into some personal turmoil when Elizabeth (most likely prompted by her desire to return home to England), arranged a marriage between Nancy and the English violinist/composer, John Abraham Fisher, who was in Vienna on sabbatical from Oxford University. Fisher was monstrously cruel to Nancy and beat her mercilessly, prompting the Emperor to banish Fisher from the city. Fisher left Vienna and returned to England sometime in the early fall of 1784 and Stephen, prompted by a commission from the Emperor for an opera in Italian (most likely obtained by Nancy), came to Vienna sometime in December of that same year. It was during this time that he may have begun to study with Mozart, who became a great influence on his musical composition, as well as a good friend, from that point on.

(The following is a large section that I rewrote and edited extensively for the Wikipedia article on Stephen Storace.)

Stephen produced his first opera, Gli Sposi malcontenti, at Vienna, on 1 June, 1785. The premiere, however, was marred by further scandal involving his sister, who was singing the prima buffa role - she collapsed on-stage in mid-aria, causing the performance to be abandoned. Nancy was pregnant during the premiere of the opera and gave birth to a baby girl a few weeks later. The child was given to a foundling home by Elizabeth Storace, who claimed that it belonged to Nancy's estranged husband, John Fisher, who had been banished by the Emperor some months earlier for beating Nancy. Elizabeth Storace claimed that they didn't care if the child lived or died. The child died in the foundling home a month after she was born. Nancy's return to the stage four months later, was marked by the performance of the Cantata per la ricuperata di Ophelia, composed specially for the occasion by a trio of composers - Mozart, Salieri, and the unknown "Cornetti" (which may have been a pen-name for Stephen). Sadly this rare example of a Mozart-Salieri collaboration has been entirely lost. In Vienna, the Storaces made the acquaintance of Mozart, in whose Le nozze di Figaro Nancy sang Susanna at the premiere, and Kelly sang Don Curzio. The "English circle" in Vienna also included the composer Thomas Attwood. In Vienna Stephen produced a second opera, Gli equivoci, founded on Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors.

There is no clear explanation why the Storaces abandoned Vienna at the height of their success there. The reasons are suggested to be more personal than professional. Certainly the Emperor spoke of her with great admiration, even using her abilities as an arbitrary unit of currency - "I'd not give you a Storace for it!". Quite possibly Nancy was under pressure from Elizabeth, who was not at all happy in Vienna, and wished to return to England with both of her children in tow. Nancy left Vienna in February of 1787, along with her "entourage" of Michael Kelly, her brother, and Thomas Attwood. Buoyed-up by their success on the Viennese stage, the coach-party which left for London could not have imagined they would find themselves rejected and unwanted in there, where their names were quite forgotten after such a long absence. Stephen was remembered - if at all - as an infant prodigy violinist at Vauxhall Gardens, and found it very hard to secure paying work without the cherubic charm of youth behind him, and moreover as an unknown composer.

The following, from Stephen's opera The Doctor and the Apothecary, was composed for Nancy in the spring of 1787, shortly after their return from Vienna to London. It clearly shows a strong Mozart influence.

Part II, tomorrow!