The mar­riage of Mozart: a truly opera-wor­thy tale

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - CULTURE -

To­day is Mozart’s wed­ding an­niver­sary. It was on Sun­day, Au­gust 4, 1782, that Wolf­gang Amadeus and Con­stanze We­ber were mar­ried in St Stephen’s Cathe­dral in Vi­enna. He was 26, she just 20. The story of how they fell in love and even­tu­ally be­came man and wife would fit well in one of his op­eras.

Mozart had been a prodigy. His vi­o­lin­ist fa­ther Leopold had toured him around Europe to show off his tal­ent. So it was frus­trat­ing for both of them that, as a young man, he could find no steady em­ploy­ment as a mu­si­cian.

With prospects at home in Salzburg non-ex­is­tent, around Hal­loween in 1777, the by-now 21-year-old Mozart headed off with his mother, Anna Maria, for Mannheim in Ger­many, then the cen­tre of mu­si­cal ex­cel­lence.

Con­stantly in need of money, Mozart would give mu­sic lessons wher­ever he ended up. Among his stu­dents in Mannheim were four young women, daugh­ters of Fri­dolin We­ber, half-brother of the fa­ther of the com­poser Carl Maria von We­ber.

The We­ber girls were all tal­ented singers, and Mozart was smit­ten by the sec­ond el­dest, Aloysia. She was a bud­ding so­prano.

Mozart wanted to take her on a con­cert tour to Italy, but when word reached his fa­ther, he was outraged. Spon­sor­ing one of the We­ber girls was not go­ing to help Wolf­gang’s ca­reer.

In­stead, Leopold in­sisted that mother and son should move on to Paris where he’d en­joyed great suc­cess as a young­ster. But times had changed. Paris proved a tough nut to crack.

Af­ter a few mis­er­able months, he fi­nally struck gold with his Sym­phony No 31 — the one now known as the ‘Paris’. But not long af­ter, Anna Maria suc­cumbed to a sud­den, fa­tal ill­ness. Not only that, but in his ab­sence, Aloysia’s feel­ings for him had cooled.

Leopold found his son em­ploy­ment in Salzburg, and though Wolf­gang found the work­ing en­vi­ron­ment op­pres­sive, he did well enough to get him­self a trans­fer to the brighter lights of Vi­enna.

At this point, the ro­man­tic tale took a twist. The We­bers were now liv­ing there. Fri­dolin had died, and they were rent­ing out rooms to help make ends meet.

Mozart moved in, much to his fa­ther’s dis­gust. And it got worse for Leopold. His son promptly fell for an­other of the We­ber girls.

The af­fec­tion that Wolf­gang and Con­stanze We­ber showed for each other all got a bit too much for the girl’s mother. For the sake of pro­pri­ety, Mozart had to move out.

But that by no means cooled his ar­dour, and Frau We­ber came around to the view that he might in­deed be a good match for her daugh­ter. Not so Leopold Mozart, who saw no ad­van­tage at all in the li­ai­son, and was dead against it.

But Wolf­gang was de­ter­mined, and so was his bride-to-be. Though they broke up briefly af­ter a row over a party game of for­feits — Con­stanze had had to al­low a young man to mea­sure her calves and took it badly when Mozart told her off in no un­cer­tain terms — they were soon back to­gether again.

And liv­ing to­gether, it ap­pears. For Con­stanze’s mother was threat­en­ing all sorts of le­gal ac­tion to save the fam­ily name.

Wolf­gang saw only one way out, and that was to marry Con­stanze, with or with­out his fa­ther’s con­sent. The wed­ding was hastily ar­ranged for their lo­cal church, which just hap­pened to be the cathe­dral. A let­ter from Leopold giv­ing the happy cou­ple his bless­ing ar­rived the next day.

Ge­orge Hamil­ton presents The Hamil­ton Scores on RTÉ lyric fm from 10am each Satur­day and Sun­day

Party row: Wolf­gang and Con­stanze

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