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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Composer

Biography

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in action.
Colin Judson as Monostatos and Janai Brugger as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte © ROH. Mark Douet 2015

Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91) was one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. His mature operas, including Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte and Die Zauberflöte, are among the finest examples of the art form.

Mozart was born in Salzburg, the seventh and last child of composer and violinist Leopold; only he and his sister Maria Anna (‘Nannerl’) survived infancy. He and Nannerl were taught by their father and both displayed prodigious musical talent, which they displayed on tours to the European courts. Mozart’s earliest compositions date from age five or six, and his music seems first to have appeared in print in 1764. Aged 13 he was appointed Konzertmeister at the Salzburg court, in recognition of his reputation as both composer and performer. Early operas include Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770) and Lucio Silla (1772), both written for Milan. For much of the 1770s he was settled in Salzburg, excursions including to Munich in 1774–5 for La finta giardiniera. Idomeneo (1780), also composed for Munich, is now considered the first opera of his maturity; but it was Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782) for Vienna that secured his fame. His move to Vienna in 1781, where he taught, composed and preformed, heralded his most successful years. Operatic works from this period include his three operas with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, Le nozze di Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787, for Prague) and Così fan tutte (1790); all were instantly acclaimed, although Così was later accused of immorality. In 1791 he wrote La clemenza di Tito to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Leopold II and Die Zauberflöte for the Viennese popular theatre Theater auf der Wieden. His many other great late works include the clarinet concerto, the final two string quintets and the unfinished Requiem.

Mozart excelled in every musical form current in his time, including sacred, chamber, symphonic, dance and operatic works. His early facility matured into an inspired synthesis of Italian and south German traditions. Recognized as a great artist in his time, he is now considered perhaps the most consummate artist in Western music.

Videos

News and features

Some things are better left unsung: Why composers use speech in opera

Some things are better left unsung: Why composers use speech in opera

2 November 2015

Composers have long explored the gamut of vocal expression from a whisper to a scream.

Opera as an emotional healer: Simon Callow on Mozart the Dramatist and <em>Le nozze di Figaro</em>

Opera as an emotional healer: Simon Callow on Mozart the Dramatist and Le nozze di Figaro

2 October 2015

The acclaimed actor, director and writer explores Mozart’s dramatic genius and the unique qualities of The Marriage of Figaro.

<em>Le nozze di Figaro</em> Musical Highlight: ‘Dove sono i bei momenti’

Le nozze di Figaro Musical Highlight: ‘Dove sono i bei momenti’

14 September 2015

Mozart showcases his immense skill in depicting complex characters with this exquisite aria depicting Countess Almaviva’s inner torment.

Photos

Heather Engebretson as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Anita Hartig as Susanna, Kate Lindsey as Cherubino and Ellie Dehn as Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Anita Hartig as Susanna and Erwin Schrott as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Markus Werba as Papageno and Rhian Lois as Papagena

Toby Spence as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte

Toby Spence as Tamino, Nadezhda Karyazina as Second Lady, Sinéad Mulhern as First Lady and Claudia Huckle as Third Lady

Rhian Lois as Papagena and Markus Werba as Papageno in Die Zauberflöte

Colin Judson as Monostatos and Janai Brugger as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte

Benjamin Bevan as Speaker of the Temple in Die Zauberflöte

Production Photo of Die Zauberflöte

Toby Spence as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte

Artists of the Royal Opera in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Rebecca Evans as Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Guy de Mey as Don Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Alex Esposito as Figaro and Artists of the Royal Opera in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Alex Esposito as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Dušica Bijelić as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Marie McLaughlin as Marcellina and Christophoros Stamboglis as Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Gerald Finley as Count Almaviva and Guy de Mey as Don Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91) by Barbara Krafft (1764–1825), 1819

Heather Engebretson as Barbarina and Kate Lindsey as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Erwin Schrott as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Erwin Schrott as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Ellie Dehn as Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Ellie Dehn as Countess Almaviva and Stéphane Degout as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Ellie Dehn as Countess Almaviva and Kate Lindsey as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Anita Hartig as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Anita Hartig as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Janai Brugger as Pamina

Colin Judson as Monostatos and Janai Brugger as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte

Markus Werba as Papageno in Die Zauberflöte

Rebecca Evans as Countess Almaviva and Anna Bonitatibus as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Rebecca Evans as Countess Almaviva and Camilla Tilling as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Anna Bonitatibus as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Christophoros Stamboglis as Bartolo and Marie McLaughlin as Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera

Alex Esposito as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera