Young Mozart was already known as a famous keyboard player, and he was getting ready for a public performance in Venice. On this occasion, an experienced musician gave Mozart a fugue theme, which he worked out for more than an hour with “such science, dexterity, harmony and proper attention to rhythm that even the greatest connoisseur were astounded.” Mozart was seen as possessing good-natured modesty, which enhanced his precocious knowledge. In addition, Mozart and his father had already gotten word of the marriage of Archduke Ferdinand with the Princess Maria Beatrice Ricciarda of Modena, scheduled to take place in October 1771. In due time, he would receive an order from the Empress Maria Theresa to compose a dramatic “Serenata” in honor of this nuptial celebration. The resulting Ascanio in Alba is a leisurely work, with pastoral choruses and ballets interspersed with arias. In the meantime, however, Mozart was enjoying the Venetian Carnival.
“Yesterday we finished the Carnival in the house of Signor Wider. We supped there and then danced, and went afterwards in company with the ‘pearls’ to the new masquerade, which amused me immensely. Otherwise, I have no news but I like Venice very well.”