Sunday, May 1, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Sophia Dussek (1775-1831)
Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960)
Leo Sowerby (1895-1968)
Walter Susskind (1913-1980)
Gary Bertini (1927-2005)
Judy Collins (1939)


Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
Joseph Heller (1923-1999)
Bobbie Ann Mason (1940)

And from The Writer's Almanac:
It was on this day in 1786 that Mozart's first great opera, The Marriage of Figaro, premiered in Vienna. It was based on a French play, and it tells the story of a single day in the palace of Count Almaviva. The count spends the day attempting to seduce Susanna, the young fiancée of the court valet, Figaro. Susanna and the Countess conspire to embarrass the count and expose his infidelity.

Lorenzo da Da Ponte wrote the libretto in six weeks and Mozart was paid 450 florins for his work, a comfortable sum at the time. He directed the first performance himself, seated at the keyboard. He had his detractors in Vienna, some of whom padded the theater with hecklers. They were no match for Mozart’s composition, though, and the performance inspired so many encores that Habsburg Emperor Joseph II was forced to issue a decree “to prevent the excessive durations of operas, without however prejudicing the fame often ought by opera singers.”

It was a light-hearted, comic opera, but the musicians and singers could hardly believe the quality of the music. One singer, an Irish tenor named Michael Kelly, later wrote: "I can still see Mozart, dressed in his red fur hat trimmed with gold, standing on the stage with the orchestra at the first rehearsal, beating time for the music. ... The players on the stage and in the orchestra were electrified. ... Had Mozart written nothing but this piece of music it alone would ... have stamped him as the greatest master of his art."

Johannes Brahms said, “In my opinion, each number of Figaro is a miracle; it is totally beyond me how anyone could create anything so perfect; nothing like it was ever done again, not even by Beethoven.”

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