Mozart’s Musical Journey
20 February 1771: Ascanio in Alba

Mozart's house in Venice

Mozart’s house in Venice

From his extended Italian journey, and after having dodged a serious flu epidemic, Wolfgang Amadeus writes to his sister. “I am still well, and, thank God, in the land of the living. Tell Herr Johannes Hagenauer that the Berlein family is constantly speaking of him, particularly Mademoiselle Catherine, so he must soon return to Venice to encounter the ‘attacca.’ That is, in order to become a true Venetian, you must allow yourself to be bumped down on the ground. They wished to do this to me also, but though seven women tried it, the whole seven together did not succeed in throwing me down.”

Plaque to Mozart on the Case Ceseletti in Venice

Plaque to Mozart on the Case Ceseletti in Venice

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.”

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