Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro
Premiered Today in 1786

Statue of Wolfgang Mozart, composer of Le Nozzi di Figaro


Empress Maria Theresa of Austria founded the “Burgtheater” in Vienna in 1741. In time, it became one of the most important German language theatres in the world, and it saw the premiere of three Mozart operas! On 1 May 1786, Mozart took his customary place at the keyboard, and conducted the first performance of Le nozze di Figaro. The premier performance was not an unqualified success, because somebody had probably paid hecklers to disrupt the performance.

A Viennese newspaper writes, “Mozart’s music was generally admired by connoisseurs already at the first performance, if I except only those whose self-love and conceit will not allow them to find merit in anything not written by themselves…I heard many a bravo from unbiased connoisseurs, but obstreperous louts in the uppermost storey exerted their hired lungs with all their might to deafen singers and audience alike with their St! and Pst; and consequently opinions were divided at the end of the piece.”

Exterior of Burgtheater in Vienna, location of the premiere of Le Nozze di Figaro

Burgtheater in Vienna

Nevertheless, five numbers had to be encored on that premier night. As such, Emperor Joseph II was getting concerned about the overall length of the performances, and he instructed his aid to print posters carrying the following message: “To prevent the excessive duration of operas, without however prejudicing the fame often sought by opera singers from the repetition of vocal pieces, I deem the enclosed notice to the public, that no piece for more than a single voice is to be repeated.”

Auditorium in the Old Burgtheater, location of the premiere of Le Nozze di Figaro

Auditorium in the Old Burgtheater

Restrictions aside, Le nozze di Figaro was given a total of nine times in 1786. And that included a special performance at the Emperor’s palace theater, and a series of presentation in Prague during the winter of 1786/87. In particular, the Prague performances were tremendously successful and a critic raved, “Herr Mozart’s music is anything but a masterpiece of art. It contains so many beauties, and such a wealth of ideas, as can be drawn only from the source of innate genius.” Mozart himself conducted a performance in Prague on 22 January 1787, and this further triumph led to the commission of Don Giovanni.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro

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