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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Composer

Biography

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

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 later was 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

'My pen is rude, and I am not refined': Mozart's letters

'My pen is rude, and I am not refined': Mozart's letters

28 October 2014

The composer's letters to his father give a lively record of 18th-century life and his own energetic personality.

Idomeneo: Brave war hero or brutal tyrant?

Idomeneo: Brave war hero or brutal tyrant?

27 October 2014

The way stories of rulers are told – like that of the Greek king Idomeneus – has changed over the course of history, determined by how society views them.

5 things you need to know about Idomeneo

5 things you need to know about Idomeneo

24 October 2014

Our quick guide to Martin Kušej's new production of Mozart's early masterpiece for The Royal Opera.

Idomeneo Musical Highlight: 'Andrò, ramingo e solo'

Idomeneo Musical Highlight: 'Andrò, ramingo e solo'

23 October 2014

Mozart movingly depicts four people driven to the limit in this exquisite Act III quartet – which the composer himself could never hear without weeping.

Laughing in the face of tragedy: Black comedy in opera

Laughing in the face of tragedy: Black comedy in opera

21 August 2014

Anna Nicole is just the tip of an iceberg – operas have long come with a sharp edge.

Five operas adapted from plays: From stage to stave (and back again)

Five operas adapted from plays: From stage to stave (and back again)

7 July 2014

Composers have long been inspired by the work of playwrights.

Photos

Rebecca Evans as Countess Almaviva and Gerald Finley as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Rebecca Evans as Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Camilla Tilling as Susanna and Alex Esposito as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Rebecca Evans as Countess Almaviva and Gerald Finley as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Camilla Tilling as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Camilla Tilling as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Alex Esposito as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Alex Esposito as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Artists of the Royal Opera in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Artists of the Royal Opera in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Dušica Bijelić in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH/Mark Douet, 2014

Dušica Bijelić as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Rebecca Evans as Countess Almaviva and Gerald Finley as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Camilla Tilling as Susanna, Dušica Bijelić as Barbarina and Artists of the Royal Opera in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Camilla Tilling as Susanna and Alex Esposito as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Alex Esposito as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Marie McLaughlin as Marcellina and Christophoros Stamboglis as Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Rebecca Evans as Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Gerald Finley as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Camilla Tilling as Susanna and Gerald Finley as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Gerald Finley as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Jeremy White as Antonio and Gerald Finley as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Camilla Tilling as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Rebecca Evans as Countess Almaviva and Anna Bonitatibus as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Camilla Tilling as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Rebecca Evans as Countess Almaviva and Camilla Tilling as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Rebecca Evans as Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Alex Esposito as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Gerald Finley as Count Almaviva, Camilla Tilling as Susanna and Artists of the Royal Opera in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Gerald Finley as Count Almaviva and Guy de Mey as Don Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Guy de Mey as Don Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Gerald Finley as Count Almaviva and Camilla Tilling as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Anna Bonitatibus as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Christophoros Stamboglis as Bartolo and Marie McLaughlin as Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Alex Esposito as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014

Camilla Tilling as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mark Douet 2014