Techniques | Beethoven & Mozart | Early Romantic | Opera

Mozart was, with Handel, the composer Beethoven revered above all others. And Fidelio could hardly have been written without the example of Mozart’s mature operas. Yet with his strongly ethical, idealistic outlook, even to the point of priggishness, Beethoven regarded works such as Don Giovanni (1787) and, especially, Così fan tutte (1790) as flippant and immoral. His favourite Mozart opera by far was Die Zauberflöte, though we can guess that he valued it more for its Masonic solemnity and portrayal of ideal love than for the Viennese pantomime antics of Papageno.

Beethoven may have been repelled by the ‘La donna è mobile’ sentiments of Così fan tutte, but at least two of its numbers left their mark on Fidelio: the ‘canon’ quartet in the second-act finale of Così surely lies behind the sublime quartet ‘Mir ist so wunderbar’ (‘I Feel so Strange’) in Act I, where the four characters voice their contrasting emotions in turn; and the opening of Leonore’s ‘Komm, Hoffnung’, with its elaborate obbligato for three horns, recalls Fiordiligi’s second-act aria in the same key. Other numbers, including the trio ‘Gut, Söhnchen gut’ (‘Good, My Son, Good’), look back to Die Zauberflöte; while the quintet of transfigured stillness at the heart of the second finale, with its ethereal oboe melody, evokes such transcendent Mozartian moments as the final union of Pamina and Tamino and the Countess’s forgiveness of her errant husband in Figaro.

Techniques | Cabaletta | Early Romantic | Opera


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