Soon after Nancy's arrival in Vienna, her mother, Elizabeth Storace arranged a marriage for Nancy to an English violinist by the name of John Abraham Fisher. Fisher came to Vienna on sabbatical from Oxford and connected with the Storaces, as they were from London and he had been acquaintances of Nancy's parents there. Elizabeth, who hated Vienna and wanted to return to London, saw this marriage as insurance of their return once Fisher's sabbatical was complete. Fisher and Nancy were married in March of 1784 and almost immediately afterward it became evident that the marriage was a disaster as Fisher began beating and brutalizing Nancy very likely from the first day. In the first few
Shortly after Nancy's return to the Burgtheater stage (most likely in early November of 1784), she announced that she was pregnant but the Emperor either didn't or wouldn't release her from her contract. Performance records show that she was on stage throughout its duration, despite indications of it being an extremely difficult pregnancy and Nancy experiencing periods of absence due to illness.
In January of 1785, Nancy's older brother, Stephen arrived in Vienna from London to fulfill a commission for an opera that apparently Nancy had arranged. How she was able to obtain such a commission for Stephen, who was an entirely unknown composer, remains a mystery. Some attribute it to the notion that she was Emperor Joseph's mistress. Others believe that she appealed to one of the nobles with a high position in the Emperor's court and offered him "favors" to obtain the commission. No one really knows how the commission came about, however what we do know is that Nancy was extremely close to her brother, and she needed his presence and support during what were the most traumatic times of her life. Shortly after his arrival her child was born. There is some dispute over the birth date of the child. Earlier research indicated that the child was born sometime in late May or early June of 1785, which would mean that Nancy was near full term at the time of the premiere of her brother's opera, in which she starred. Later scholarship by the Mozart scholar, Michael Lorenz indicates that the child, a baby girl, who was named Josefa Fisher, was born in late January of 1785. What we do know for certain is that the child was given to the Viennese foundling home and died only a month after her birth. Foundling home records from this period indicate that only children who were orphaned or proven to be bastards were accepted into the home. This is a strong indicator that Fisher wasn't the father of Nancy's child.
Despite the controversy over the actual birth date of Nancy's child, it is documented fact that during the premiere of her brother Stephen's opera in May of 1785, Nancy suffered a complete loss of her voice onstage. She had to be carried off stage and the performance shut down. Nancy's voice loss was so complete that she was off stage for a solid 4 months and there was some very substantiated concern that she would never recover. Historians have been baffled as to the reason for such a complete vocal demise citing possible emotional/psychological distress, a throat infection, and even hormonal changes being contributing factors. However, she did recover after a long period of rest, but she never regained her voice at full capacity. From that point on, her stage reviewers reported a
All of the above is merely the backdrop for the events that led to the composition of the cantata, "Per la ricuperata salute di Ofelia, KV 477a, which was a joint composition by Mozart, Salieri, and a mysterious composer by the name of Cornetti (thought by historians to be an alias).
When I began my research for my master's thesis (vocal performance and pedagogy) on the life and career of Nancy Storace in the spring of 1999, I was intrigued by this amazing woman who seemed to make a miraculous recovery after her two year ordeal as a victim of domestic violence. And like the historians whose biographies and articles I read, I got lost in her relationship with Mozart and the intrigue of a possible affair with him and with others, as well as dazzled by her amazing success throughout the rest of her career until her death in her estate home in Dulwich in 1817 - so much so, that I, like the others, started viewing her experience with domestic violence as just a small blip on her radar. Years later, even as I continued to research her life for my historical novel series "So Faithful a Heart", and as a vocal pedagogue, I
After a year of serving in the capacity of support staff at the center for victims of domestic violence/sexual assault I was sent to train as a Certified Domestic & Sexual Assault Response Professional and was promoted to the position of full time Sexual Assault Advocate/Educator. My training as a professional victim advocate further corroborated my theories, and I am now convinced beyond any doubt that Nancy Storace was a victim of strangulation during her abuse with her husband, John Fisher and that her voice loss and the permanent "hoarseness" and "edge" sustained to her voice, as well as her near death from a brain hemorrhage were all the result of strangulation.
Now, back to the cantata: I have been elated and at the same time disappointed and even appalled by the recent discovery and revelation of Per la ricuperata salute di Ofelia in January of 2016. Historians and headlines are making this discovery entirely about Mozart and Salieri, and the myth perpetuated by the play and film ,"Amadeus", that Salieri was so jealous of Mozart's talent that he murdered him. Documented research long ago dispelled that myth, so for notable and serious music historians to present this discovery as some kind of "proof" that this dispels that myth is not only ridiculous, but is nothing but cheap sensationalism. This discovery isn't about the composers or their relationships with each other, but about the woman for whom this cantata was composed, and the joyous occasion it celebrated. It is about the triumph of a woman over her brutal and devastating abuse - her strength, her determination, and her unrelenting spirit. This cantata is about Ann "Nancy" Selina Storace a woman who was loved and celebrated by the likes of the Emperor of the greatest empire in the world at that time, and of men like Mozart, Salieri, and Lorenzo da Ponte. This discovery is about the triumph of the human spirit and our ability to rise above and conquer the affects of even the most devastating events of our lives.