La finta semplice

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La finta semplice (The Pretended Simpleton), K. 51 (46a) is an opera buffa in three acts for soloists and orchestra, composed in 1769 by then 12-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to an Italian libretto by the court poet Marco Coltellini based on an early work by Carlo Goldoni. It was performed at the court of Palace of the Archbishop, Salzburg, 1 May 1769.

Mozart composed the music using the model of comedy started by Philippe Destouches with La fausse Agnès, ou le Poète campagnard (1734). The form of libretto includes the introduction, a duet and three finals.

In 2013 the opera will be performed by Bampton Classical Opera, in a new English translation called Pride and Pretence.

Composition history[edit]

The opera was something of a career setback for Mozart, amid a childhood otherwise characterized by success and stardom. The instigation of the work was a remark made by Emperor Joseph II to Mozart's father Leopold during a visit made to Imperial capital of Vienna by the Mozart family (1767–1769). The Emperor suggested to Leopold that Wolfgang write an opera for performance by the imperial opera company. Leopold took the suggestion as a concrete request, and set Wolfgang to work composing La finta semplice--without taking the precaution of obtaining a legal contract. When the opera was finished, the performers apparently disliked it,[1] and various intrigues ultimately prevented it from coming to performance in Vienna. Leopold was angry, and wrote a long letter of protest to the Emperor.[2] The Emperor ordered an inquiry, but its result was that the opera was not to be produced.[3]

The Mozarts left Vienna with La finta semplice still unperformed. It was then produced in their home town of Salzburg, under the auspices of Leopold's employer, Prince-Archbishop Schrattenbach.

The episode in Vienna was evidently quite damaging to Wolfgang's career. During the Vienna visit, Joseph II's mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, developed a very hostile view of the Mozart family. The empress was an important relative of a fair number of monarchs and aristocrats who might have been in a position to give Wolfgang a permanent job. Here is what she wrote (12 December 1771) to one potential employer, her 17-year-old son Ferdinand, Imperial Governor of Milan.

You ask me to take the young Salzburger into your service. I do not know why, not believing that you have need of a composer or of useless people. If however it would give you pleasure, I have no wish to hinder you. What I say is intended only to prevent your burdening yourself with useless people and giving titles to people of that sort. If they are in your service it degrades that service when these people go about the world like beggars. Besides, he has a large family.[4]

Ferdinand, who knew Mozart as a result of his Italian journey and was interested in hiring him, took his mother's advice. Elsewhere in Italy, Mozart received a very cool reception from another Ferdinand, the King of Naples; Melograni conjectures that he had received the Empress's bad recommendation from his wife, her daughter Maria Carolina.

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, May 1, 1769
(Conductor: – )
Intended Cast, 1768 (Vienna)
Fracasso, a Hungarian captain
lodging with Cassandro
tenor Joseph Meissner Filippo Laschi
Rosina, his sister, a baroness soprano Maria Magdalena Haydn
Cassandro, a tyrannical misogynist bass Joseph Hornung Francesco Carattoli
Polidoro, his timid brother tenor Anton Franz Spitzeder
Giacinta, their sister,
evidently no longer young
mezzo-soprano Maria Anna Braunhofer
Simone, Fracasso's orderly,
in love with Ninetta
bass Felix Winter
Ninetta, Giacinta's maid soprano Maria Anna Fesemayer Antonia Bernasconi

Synopsis[edit]

Place: Cassandro's estate near Cremona
Time: mid-18th century

Act 1
Captain Fracasso and his Hungarian troops are stationed near Cremona. He lodges in the home of Don Cassandro. Captain Fracasso falls in love with Giacinta, and Simone with Ninetta. Fracasso and Giacinta want to marry, as do Simone and Ninetta. But they can't do it without the consent of Cassandro and Polidoro. The two brothers are comfortable with their status quo – they don't want to marry, or to part with their sister. A plan is devised to outwit the brothers, with the help of Rosina. She poses as a naïve simpleton and makes both brothers fall in love with her until they agree to the marriages. Polidoro falls in love with Rosina first and proposes marriage immediately. At first Cassandro is indifferent, but eventually his defences are completely disarmed through Rosina's naïve innocence. So far, the plan is working.

Act 2
Polidoro still believes Rosina plans to marry him. Rosina coaches him for a confrontation with his brother. Polidoro demands half of his inheritance from Cassandro. Giacinta fears a quarrel between the brothers, but the others look forward to their fight. Rosina and Fracasso congratulate each other for their successful plan to outdo Cassandro. They continue to engineer the rest of the plot. Simone takes Giacinta into hiding. Fracasso tells the brothers that Giacinta absconded with the family inheritance and ran away. The plan is so successful that Ninetta follows. Simone announces that Ninetta has stolen whatever she could get and also fled. The brothers promise to marry both girls to whoever can bring them back. Fracasso and Simone volunteer.

Act 3
Simone catches up with Ninetta and they get married. Giacinta is afraid her brother will not agree to her marrying Fracasso, but he assures her Rosina has taken care of everything. Fracasso and Giacinta pair off. Finally Rosina rejects Polidoro and marries Cassandro. All ends well for everybody except Polidoro.

Noted arias[edit]

Recordings[edit]

  • W.A. Mozart: La Finta Semplice, Orfeo, 85843
  • W.A. Mozart: La Finta Semplice, Brillant alias Joan Records, BC 99726 (on 5 CDs)
  • W.A. Mozart: La Finta Semplice, Philips, 422528-2
  • W.A. Mozart: La Finta Semplice, DGG, 073 4251 (DVD video)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ This is the view taken by Solomon (1995, p. ?).
  2. ^ The letter is reprinted in English translation in Deutsch (1965, pp. 80–83).
  3. ^ Melograni (2007, p. 28)
  4. ^ Quoted in Melograni, p. 56)

Cited sources

  • Deutsch, Otto Erich, Mozart: A Documentary Biography. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1965
  • Melograni, Pietro, (Trans. Lydia G. Cochrane), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: a Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007 ISBN 0-226-51956-2, ISBN 978-0-226-51956-2
  • Solomon, Maynard, Mozart: A Life, 2005

External links[edit]