Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Music: Das Lied der Trennung (The Song of Parting)

In May of 1787, only three months following Nancy's departure from Vienna to return to London, Mozart composed this Lied based on a text by the German poet, Klamer Eberhard Karl Schmidt (1764-1824). It wasn't difficult at all to discern who Mozart had in mind when he chose this particular text.

God's angels weep
when lovers part,
how can I go on living,
o maid, without you?
A stranger to all joys
henceforth I live to suffer!
And you, and you?
Possibly forever Luisa will forget me!
Possibly forever she will put me out of her mind!

Awake and in my dreams
I will quote Luisa's name;
professing her name
be a service for me;
I will even profess and praise it
when I am with God.
And you, and you?
Possibly forever Luisa will forget me!
Possibly forever she will put me out of her mind!

I cannot forget her,
here, there, everywhere
the burden of love pursues me
by the squeeze of her hands.
I tremble with longing for her,
and find myself forsaken!
And you, and you?
Possibly forever Luisa will forget me!
Possibly forever she will put me out of her mind!

I cannot forget her;
this heart, separated from her,
seems to beg me with sighs,
"My friend, remember me!"
Alas, I will remember you
until they lay me in the grave.
And you, and you?
Possibly forever Luisa will forget me!
Possibly forever she will put me out of her mind!

Oblivion robs within hours
what love bestows within years.
Like the turn of a hand
such is the turn of a heart.
When new courtships
have supplanted me in her heart,
o God, then Luisa will possibly forget me forever.

Alas, remember our parting!
That tearless silence,
that throbbing of the heart
may weigh you down
like a burdening nightmare;
will you think of someone else,
will you forget me some day,
forget God and yourself?

Alas, remember our parting!
This token, bitten amid kisses
onto my mouth
may judge me and you!
With this memento on my lips
I will come in the witching hour,
to be you a warning,
that Luisa forgets me,
that she puts me out of her mind!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nancy Storace: A survivor of domestic violence

Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, I thought it appropriate to share a section from So Faithful a Heart which deals with the violence that Nancy suffered at the hands of her husband, John Fisher (a marriage that was arranged by her mother to supposedly further her career). Nancy was only 18 years old at the time. Nancy survived the ordeal, and eventually Fisher was banned from Vienna by Nancy's employer, Joseph II, the Emperor of Austria.

John Fisher was a tall, slender, handsome man with cool, slate blue eyes, a head full of dark, thick hair with slight graying at the temples, and an austere, almost noble bearing. He was forty-one years old when he came to Vienna, nearly three times Nancy’s age. An old friend of the Storaces from their theater days at Vauxhall, Fisher had served as the principal violinist when Stefano was the director of the orchestra there. When he came to Vienna on sabbatical from Oxford, he immediately found Nancy and her mother with the intent to re-establish ties with his old friends. Nancy’s fame, especially her good standing with the Emperor, could prove lucrative for him.

Nancy didn’t remember him, for she was far too young at the time that he and her parents were friends, but she’d heard her mother speak of him on several occasions, and always very fondly. She had mentioned that he had a tendency toward self-importance and pontification, believing everyone was entitled to his expert opinion whether or not they asked for it, but most generally people shrugged it off. What she didn’t know was that after he was widowed only shortly before he came to Vienna, he had taken to strong drink as well as to whoring and had earned a reputation in Oxford as a drunkard and a man of violent outbursts. What no one knew was that this sabbatical was forced by the university heads. Perhaps some time away would cool his temper and save his tenure.

It was a cruel stroke of fate that Nancy’s first passionate encounter, the one that would usher her into womanhood and leave her feeling beautiful, respected, and loved, would be followed by the most brutal and humiliating experiences of her life. The man whom Nancy promised wasn’t as bad as the gossipmongers claimed turned out to be her worst nightmare.

The abuse began immediately. In fact, Fisher turned into a different person the instant they took their vows. As soon as they arrived home he began barking out orders to the maids to have his things moved into Nancy’s bedroom.
“Schnell!” he shouted as the young maids went running, hauling his heavy belongings through the apartment. “Things are going to change around here! No more of your indolence, or your backtalk, you German swine!”

When one of the maids dared to raise an objection, he replied with a box on the ears, and it wasn’t unusual for him to pick up a nearby chair, a vase, or anything within his reach and hurl it at the offending girl. Elizabeth took to hiding in her room, never daring to raise an objection however much she regretted the match she had orchestrated. Of course he never laid a finger on her, but Nancy and her poor maids didn’t fare as well.

The first beating took place only two days after their wedding, when Nancy and Michael came back to the apartment after going to the Milano with other members of the company following a performance. They were laughing over his inebriated state and Michael, in a fit of drunken gaiety, buried his face in Nancy’s bosom. Nancy pushed him off of her, taking his arm and walking with him up to his own apartment, where she helped him get settled in for the night so he could sleep it off. When she returned to her own apartment, Fisher met her at the door with a leather strap in his hand and hit her with it, calling her a whore.

By the middle of April word of the beatings had gotten out to the Viennese gossipmongers, for Nancy had been taken out of several performances due to her injuries. They knew it was only a matter of time before Rosenberg grew impatient with Nancy’s frequent absences. She did the best she could to keep up with the grueling rehearsal and performance schedules, which were especially busy that spring and summer. She wasn’t going to allow herself to be replaced if she could help it. If nothing else, Nancy was determined.

Fortunately there were some weeks spent at Laxenburg, the Emperor’s summer palace and hunting grounds, where Fisher, being a spouse, wasn’t invited. Nancy enjoyed a little respite then and was grateful for the time away from both work and her husband. Upon her return to Vienna, however, she found the situation at home was as bad, or worse, than before.

She hadn’t seen Mozart the entire spring or summer, for after the night when she returned late with Michael, she was afraid to go out to the casino or to the Milano. It didn’t matter how early or late she returned, though, because Fisher always found a reason to be angry with her, so she was subject to his foul moods on a daily basis.

When he dragged her into their bed and forced her to submit to her conjugal duties—and unspeakably vile debaucheries—she closed her eyes and escaped to a place where she was loved and adored, and treated with respect and tenderness. She imagined being with Mozart in a lush, expansive garden with trees and a softly flowing river, lying in the grass. There, he made tender love to her on the daisy-strewn lawn, the birds and the breeze their only music, and the sky their only witness.

There were also times when she felt a sense of overwhelming guilt over her thoughts of him. What if she really was like other actresses and nothing but a common whore? Sometimes she believed that Fisher’s treatment of her was penance for her sin of loving a married man. Fisher always called her a whore; what if he was correct? And although she was neither a Catholic nor religious, she sometimes walked to St. Michael’s to sit in one of the back pews where no one would see her, and pray to God to forgive her for loving a man who belonged to someone else.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy 245th Birthday, Nancy

Anna Selina "Nancy" Storace
27 October 1765 to 24 August 1817
Mozart's Original Susanna

Sunday, October 24, 2010

World Class Tenor, Arnold Rawls, in Recital

World Class Tenor, Arnold Rawls, will be in recital at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma, on Tuesday, October 26th, at 7:30. He will be singing selections from Verdi & Puccini.

"When tenor Andrew Richards cancelled due to indisposition, Arnold Rawls (who was scheduled for three performances) took over the role of the Egyptian warrior Radames for the entire run. Rawls possesses a firm, pliant lyric tenor with ringing high notes that easily dominated the ensembles. His Celeste Aida was distinguished by sweetness of timbre and emotional fervor." (There is a long history of lyric tenors singing this role - Bergonzi, Gigli, Bjoerling. Rawls follows that tradition.)
- Entertainment News & Views

Arnold and I were dear friends & classmates at OBU, and I'm proud to announce this event. I'll also be presenting a signed copy of my book So Faithful a Heart: The Love Story of Nancy Storace & Wolfgang Mozart to Arnold, who has graciously offered me a space at his CD sales table to take orders for my book.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Music: Zeffiretti lusinghieri from Mozart's Idomeneo

During the Lenten season of 1786, while Le Nozze di Figaro was in rehearsal, Nancy sang the role of Ilia in Mozart's "Idomeneo", in a concert performance at Palais Auersperg, in Vienna. The following is an excerpt from Chapter 12 of So Faithful a Heart:

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 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!"