Writing Operas- Hassles Even for Mozart. Writing an opera is difficult. Writing an outstanding opera is more difficult. Finding a good composer/ librettist combination is rare. Raising funds for the work is is extremely difficult. Procuring a venue for a production of a new opera is a a huge task. That is why perpetual old opera war horses will continue to be the mainstay of traditional, established opera houses. Aspiring composers of opera face at least one to all of these hurdles. That certainly was true for Mozart. Mozart had the contacts. He had the admiration of wealthy royalty. His problem, at least at first, was finding a good librettist with which he could collaborate.
I’m lucky enough. to own the book pictured on the right. It is autographed by Victor Borge. The inspiration for this blog came from his book. Royalty in Europe fostered opera. Mozart was quite a charmer in this regard. As a young boy, he was fussed over by every emperor he met and kissed by their empress wives. He even proposed to Marie Antoinette. This was after she straightened him out from a skid on the palace floor.
So how does a child charm, royalty? Mozart used the technique of novelty. He would play the pianoforte using one finger on each hand. He would cover the piano keyboard with a napkin and perform. He would ask his royal backers to hum a tune. They he make an entire sonata on the “hum”. He would freely improvise variations on a theme. Yet even with the royal support of limitless funding, there were problems. You still needed a good libretto.
Here is an example of Mozart’s libretto problems: He wrote an opera for La Finta Semplice. It’s about a Hungarian captain whose sister makes love to his girlfriend’s brother. As a result, the girlfriend’s maid can marry the captain’s valet. This needs to happen without the captain’s girlfriend’s other brother finding out. As crazy as this is, it still made it to the stage. Today, I think that a rich person can buy their way to a full production. But, odds of overall success are even more remote.
The feature picture of the ghosts of Caesar and Anthony in the above internal link is from our new opera. It is now called, Patra. It was called Octavian and Cleopatra. Another name it went by was The Cup of Cleopatra. Now, the opera is undergoing a major rewrite. This is no small task. However, I do have one great advantage: Everyday I have breakfast with my librettist. She is my wife, Sharon. Everything is coming together for a workshop in upstate New York 2019. We are looking for backers. Click on the picture below to sample some of the earlier productions. They might pique you interest. Contact email@example.com if you are interested in assisting.