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Impossible Interviews September 2017: Mozart’s Patron van Swieten


Who is Gottfried van Swieten?

Usually a rather blurred figure in Mozart’s biographies, in reality, Baron Gottfried van Swieten exerted an enormous influence on the development of Mozart’s interests in music composition and then also on Haydn and on the young Beethoven. Furthermore, van Swieten (a freemason himself, like Mozart), with the Abbé Stadler, had a crucial role in the promotion of Mozart’s works carried on by Constanze, after December 1791.

The son of the Vampirism scholar Gerard van Swieten
The father of Baron van Swieten, Gerard van Swieten, was an important Dutch-Austrian physician, who in 1745 became the personal physician of the Austria Imperial family and, in particular, of the Empress Maria Theresa.
From 1718 to 1732, suddenly, a previously unknown brutal myth on vampirism reached also Austria from Serbia and received a wide sudden diffusion throughout Europe and many scholars were called by the local authorities to directly investigate the phenomenon and to eradicate it.
Maria Theresa asked Gerard van Swieten to investigate and was sent to Moravia in 1755, to study the case. In 1768 Gerard van Swieten published his Essay against vampirism Discourse on the Existence of Ghosts, which led Maria Theresa to ban all traditional defences to vampires, as the product of  vain fear and of superstitious credulity.
In 1774 and in 1789 (2nd edition) the Dissertazione sopra i Vampiri by Giuseppe Davanzati, Bishop of Trani, appeared, to support the Essay by Gerard van Swieten and Maria Theresa’s laws. Unfortunately the superstition was difficult to eradicate and, thus, in the end, the authorities tried to transform vampirism in an art genre, to defeat it, by using also opera and comic opera (among the first works, the comic opera I vampiri by Silvestro Palma, 1812, which promotes the rationalist theories of Giuseppe Davanzati).

van Swieten and the von Jacquins friends of Mozart
The fact that Mozart and his wife Constanze were close friends of Gottfried von Jacquin and his sister Franziska, is well known. What probably many still fail to consider is that both Gottfried and Franziska von Jacquin belonged to the circle of van Swieten’s close friends. In fact the father of Gottfried and Franziska was Nikolaus von Jacquin, a famous and important scholar and a personal pupil of van Swieten’s father, Gerard van Swieten. Even more, Nikolaus von Jacquin named a genus of mahogany after his mentor and friend Gerard van Swieten, the Swietenia. So Mozart and his wife, by regularly attending the von Jacquins, just remained within the group of close friends of van Swieten.

Mozart and the van Swieten’s Sunday Music program
Thanks to Mozart’s letters and Weigl’s autobiography and some reminiscences of Salieri, we are rather well informed on the van Swieten’s Sunday Music program held at his apartments from the Spring 1782 to some years later.
At 12 every Sunday, Mozart, Starzer, Teyber, van Swieten and, probably only on a few occasions, also Salieri met at van Swieten’s apartments to study and perform works by Handel, Graun, J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach. F. Bach, with Mozart accompanying at the fortepiano, van Swieten singing discant, Mozart also singing alto, Starzer tenor, Teyber bass. According to Weigl, when Salieri was there, he also sang some part.
Thanks to this sort of private academies, Mozart developed his peculiar taste for Handel’s and Bach’s works, now made known and available through the rare and difficult to find scores of van Swieten, and their art of counterpoint, a taste that well emerges in his major works from 1782 to 1791 (Mass in C Minor, Haydn Quartets, The Magic Flute, Requiem etc.).
Mozart tried to promote, instead, during such occasions, the knowledge of the sacred music works by Michael Haydn and Eberlin, even though, as far as we know, he decided not to promote Eberlin’s keyboard art of fugue, because he found it on a lower level in comparison to Bach and Handel.
The presence of Salieri at these private academies at van Swieten’s are much disputed, because his pupil Weigl tells this story and because Salieri’s own reminiscences of these academies are certainly heavily manipulated and distorted: i.e. Salieri was the leader of these academies and Mozart used to call him papa all the time (difficult to believe, because Salieri was not much older than Mozart and could not be a papa to Mozart).

van Swieten’s political roles & his influence on Mozart’s works
From 1780 to 1782 van Swieten reached a high position at Court with Joseph II, earning an annual salary of ca. 20.000 florins (ca. 140.000 modern US dollars).
He became Councillor of State, Director of the State Education Commission (1781) and Director of a new Censorship Commission (1782). van Swieten, in his official role, supported and carried on the program of reforms of Joseph II. If Mozart’s works, like Le Nozze di Figaro, and certain parts of Don Giovanni (regularly censored and cut in 1800s) and, on a certain level also The Magic Flute, were freely performed in Austria in 1780s, that was also the result of the activity of van Swieten within the Censorship Commission, which increased certain forms of freedom.
As is well known, the death of Joseph II (and the French Revolution) created troubles to all the people who worked for Joseph II. And van Swieten, already considered the person responsible for too much revolutionary freedom and for other disasters of the Imperial administration, was discharged from his commission post by Leopold II on 5 December 1791, the same day as the death of Mozart, while Imperial informers were building an act of accusation against Mozart’s The Magic Flute, considered a satire against Louis XVI of France and the Austria Emperor’s sister Marie Antoinette and an obscure promotion of the French Revolution.

Mozart, van Swieten and the Handel controversy
The strong interest of van Swieten in the music by Handel, if, on the one hand, it led to the birth of great masterpieces like Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, Haydn’s Oratorios and Beethoven’s various works, on the other hand, unfortunately reached also levels of a sort of fanaticism hard to be comprehended.
In 1786 van Swieten organized the Gesellschaft der Associierten (Society of Associated Cavaliers), to organize the performance of great orchestral works in Vienna. In 1788 van Swieten chose Mozart as official conductor of the Society and from 1788 to 1790 commissioned Mozart to write a revised and updated (mainly in the orchestration) edition of four major works by Handel: Acis and Galatea (1788), The Messiah (1789), Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day (1790), Alexander’s Feast (1790).
Despite Mozart’s intense activity on Handel, van Swieten kept a certain pressure on Mozart, because he wanted Mozart to write a purer Handelian work (possibly an oratorio?), to prove he was a real great composer (!?). From this, also the long lasting debate on Mozart’s borrowing from Handel in building his famous Requiem, considered already in 1790s also a collection of reminiscences of Handelian themes firstly heard by Mozart in his famous Tour in England when a child prodigy.
Moreover a letter of van Swieten written in 1798 ignited the Handel controversy among Mozart supporters, since van Swieten clearly declares himself unsatisfied with the work carried on by Mozart, but not with that carried on by Haydn, who really managed to prove himself a great composer on the same level as Handel. Mozart simply failed to prove this, due to his sudden death.
Here the infamous words from van Swieten’s letter (December 1798):
«Undoubtedly it [i.e. the level of Handel and of the two Bachs] would have been reached by Mozart, had he not been snatched from us prematurely. Joseph Haydn, conversely, truly stands there [i.e. with Handel the two Bachs]».
The harsh judgment of van Swieten simply means that Haydn, in the end, managed to deliver a great Oratorio, The Creation, in the high style of Handel, while Mozart miserably failed in doing this, due to his sudden death (!?).

van Swieten helps Constanze
After the death of Mozart, van Swieten actively helped Constanze Mozart and her children both financially and socially. Apart from his famous intervention for the funeral of Mozart, he promoted benefit concerts in favour of Constanze’s family and took care of the education of the young Karl Mozart. His role proved particularly crucial, in Prague, in April 1794, to save the young Karl Mozart, the 9 year old child of Wolfgang, from a trap organized by the supporters of Salieri in Prague: Karl Mozart had to publicly appear on stage during the performance of Salieri’s opera Axur «as the boy who is offered up for sacrifice». The immediate intervention of van Swieten and of his mother Constanze saved the boy from this orchestrated form of public humiliation against the child of Mozart by the supporters of Salieri.

van Swieten as composer, librarian, copyright promoter
van Swieten, who had studied music in his youth with a pupil of J.S. Bach and had become a member of the musical circle of the princess Anna Amalia, was also a composer and not only a simple patron of the musical arts.
While as patron van Swieten had already patronized the son of J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach (6 Symphonies H. 657–662, 1773; Sonaten für Kenner und Liebhaber, 1781) before reaching Vienna, through the years van Swieten developed his own musical compositions.
Today the critics are largely divided on the quality of his music. Even though The Grove Dictionary is particularly harsh in his judgment on van Swieten’s musical works, other scholars give more cautious opinions on his music works, especially because a few of them were considered for long time and printed and published as works by Haydn (3 of van Swieten’s Symphonies were printed and re-printed as Haydn’s Op. 29 for many years). Curiously enough, instead, Haydn considered most of van Swieten symphonies in the old fashioned 3 movements style, «as stiff as the man himself». Nonetheless, we know that Mozart conducted at least one of van Swieten’s symphonies in Vienna in 1782.
Probably also van Swieten’s surviving opéras comiques may deserve a better study and approach by both scholars and musicians, since his Les talents à la Mode has certain important affinities with Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne and features important, beautiful and very difficult coloratura arias and Colas toujours Colas, mostly in the pastoral style, has passages with strong affinities with Haydn’s The Seasons (in particular, the hunt scene).
As librarian and copyright promoter, van Swieten not only expanded the official Imperial library with books on science, but kept promoting music, by collecting rare scores and trying to convince the Emperor Joseph II, in 1784, to adopt the new copyright and royalties law in favour of the authors of works of art. In the end, Joseph II rejected the proposal by van Swieten and the system of copyright and royalties, so, was not available for those living under the Austrian Empire. Such law would have certainly changed the life of Mozart in better, by making it a bit easier.
The importance of van Swieten as Imperial Court librarian is due also to the fact that he is considered the first librarian in Europe to use the first form of library catalog, entirely based on a easily searchable system of cards, instead of the usual old bound volumes.

van Swieten, Haydn and the young Beethoven
The great interest of van Swieten in Handel’s music was also a distinctive trait of his patronage relationship with Haydn and the young Beethoven.
It is well known how, thanks to van Swieten and his intense activity of patron, music promoter, librettist and public concerts organizer in Vienna, Haydn managed to carry out his three great oratorio projects of the 1790s: The Seven Last Words of Christ (1795/96), The Creation (1796/98) and The Seasons (1799/1801). Nonetheless the personal relationship between the two men was not always easy, as it happened with the famous quarrel between Haydn and van Swieten on the French-style passages Haydn disliked for The Seasons, the Frenchified trash.
Instead, a lesser known episode of van Swieten’s life is his fundamental role, in 1790s, in the development of young Beethoven‘s interest in Handel’s and Bach’s music, as he had done with Mozart many years earlier. This time, he accomplished his music educational program through a long series of soirées at his home, usually starting at 8.30 pm, with Beethoven who was expected to play many pieces of music and especially many fugues by Bach for various hours in the night and then to sleep at home of van Swieten.
So, when Beethoven’s pupil Ferdinand Ries wrote: «Of all composers, Beethoven valued Mozart and Handel most highly, then S. Bach.», we know that Beethoven was, in this, highly influenced by van Swieten’s program of music education, based principally on the fact that, still in 1790s, van Swieten was one of the few owners of many scores by these authors, scores which were, in certain cases, still particularly rare to find on the 18th century market of music.
In 1801 Beethoven dedicated his 1st Symphony Op. 21 to van Swieten: Erste Symphonie von L. van Beethoven Dem Baron van Swieten gewidmet.

van Swieten & Vermeer
The father of van Swieten was the owner of one of the greatest masterpieces in the History of Art, painted by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, The Art of Painting, between 1665 and 1675. Then the painting became property of his son, Baron Gottfried van Swieten. They both probably ignored the name of the real author of the painting, since, until 1860, the painting was considered a work by Pieter de Hooch.
Ten years after the death of van Swieten, in 1813, the painting was sold to the family of the Bohemian-Austrian Counts Czernin.



A) Compositions by van Swieten:

• Ariette for La Rosière de Salency (1769)
• Opéra comique: Les talents à la Mode
• Opéra comique: Colas toujours Colas
• Opéra comique: La chercheuse d’esprit (lost)
• 10 Symphonies (7 surviving), 3 of them for long time considered works by F. J. Haydn as Op. 29 (according to some sources the symphonies were at least 12)

At the score of van Swieten’s opera Colas toujours Colas is now available: Colas toujours Colas.

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Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.


Review July 2017: Nancy Storace, muse de Mozart et de Haydn


bkekcup Author: Emmanuelle Pesqué
Title: Nancy Storace, muse de Mozart et de Haydn
Publisher: Amazon
Year: 2017
Price: € 19.00
ISBN: 978-2-9560410-0-9
Official Site of the Book:
with additional online resources for this book
The Author: E. Pesqué works for the French Ministère de la Culture and for opera online Magazine

This book Nancy Storace, muse de Mozart et de Haydn is the first product of a long and not easy documentary and archival research, lasted various years. The author of the book is entirely dedicated (and with great passion) to the world of opera (with important periods of activity for the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Centre Historique des Archives Nationales, Emmanuelle Pesqué works for the French Ministère de la Culture and is one of the editors of the Internet Opera Magazine, and this since 2003) and has developed a major interest in the professional and human journey of the famous 18th century opera singer Nancy Storace, whose life vicissitudes are still, here and there, rather obscure and whose relationships with the great men and women of the 18th century London and Vienna have been, in the past, obfuscated by unsubstantiated speculations of various origin (even by the most revered and venerable Alfred Einstein) and by legends which can’t find any serious support in the primary sources nor in the archival material.

      The intent of this book and of its author is to cast a new light on this important opera singer (whose professional activity was behind and enlightened the work of the major composers of that Era, Mozart, Haydn, Salieri, Sarti and Martín y Soler), to add the results of the modern and the most recent musicological research in this field to the building of a new more accurate biography (see Link, Lorenz et alii) and to correct (where and when necessary) previous biographical attempts, like Anna… Susanna. Anna Storace, Mozart’s first Susanna: Her Life, Times and Family by G. Brace (London 1991).

    A radical chronological approach.
    With Mozart in Vienna…
    … and with Haydn in London.
    The multitudes of the unknown minor composers.
    A generation of opera singers, who were also composers.
    From Fisher to Braham: the unpredictable trails of destiny.
    Which perspectives for the Historically Informed musical practice? Something to ponder.
    A reference book and the Internet on-line resources.

A radical chronological approach.
The perspective of matter treatment chosen by Pesqué for her book is that of a radical chronological approach, so that the stories and vicissitudes of Anna Selina Nancy Storace and of her brother Stephen and of the other characters around them can be perceived and evaluated in a diachronic context, where one can watch their lives unfold along their existence paths, while they are shaped by their artistic and professional decisions and choices and by the fundamental and intriguing encounters with various figures, many of them, in the end, emerging from the pages of the book as somehow real pivotal sidekick characters across the years, like the singers Rauzzini, Marchesi or Michael Kelly.
A long and laborious research through the pages of the many newspapers of that period (1765-1817) has enabled Pesqué to enrich her work and many valuable passages with the first-hand comments and descriptions of the facts of the world of Opera as they appeared in their original papers, when the events actually occurred: thus many extracts from La Gazzetta Universale, from The Times, from The British Press, from The Monthly Mirror, from The Literary Panorama and from many other newspapers make their appearance and illuminate various actions, concerts, soirées and fragments of life of Nancy Storace, that otherwise would be lost to the darkness of oblivion.
This chronological approach to the subject offers the reader many other advantages, first of all the curious and rather rare possibility of considering the evolution of a person’s life (Nancy Storace) as the gradual evolution of an individual within a systemic environment which lives and changes with that person. So the evolution of Nancy Storace as a person and as a professional singer makes its way across history, also through the many political upheavals of the nations (from the France of the Ancien Régime to the French Revolution and the Bonaparte family, being the brother of Napoleon, Jérôme, a personal friend of Braham, with Storace now trying to work in Paris with Marie Antoinette in 1787, then singing in England the lament on her assassination in 1793 and finally, firstly, singing for the Revolution in Paris in 1797 and then again in England commemorating the death of Nelson, the defeater of Napoleon, in November 1805), through the development of the public institutions (the history of the Vienna and London main Opera Theatres and the wars over the control of theatre productions and over the singers’ salaries and wages) and through the many changes of taste of the public in art and music and much more.



With Mozart in Vienna…
Thanks to such particular structure, the admirers of Mozart’s works and the musicians devoted to Mozart will find in this book the possibility of looking at and considering well known episodes of the life of Mozart through a totally different point of view. So we may say that we have, on Mozart, an interesting change in the type of angle of visualization on a few events of his life (most of them occurred in Vienna between 1784 and 1786 for Le Nozze di Figaro, with Storace as an unforgettable first Susanna and then the concert of Les Adieux to Vienna with Mozart at the piano and Storace singing, on 23 February 1787, Ch’io mi scordi di te KV. 505, especially written by Mozart for her), a changed angle of visualization, which may really help in a better comprehension of certain passages of the life of Mozart.
Many figures, already well known because one finds them in Mozart’s biographies, make their appearance also here, but under a new light, since now they are people around Nancy Storace and, because of that, seen not in the light of Mozart, but in their everyday environmental context: the life and business of Opera Theatre from late 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century.
Therefore all this offers the reader an important glimpse at the real extra-long professional career of great opera singers like Venanzio Rauzzini, the famous castrato for whom Mozart wrote one of his masterpieces, the Exsultate, jubilate K. 165, the teacher of Nancy Storace, Michael Kelly and John Braham, the vocal coach and friend of Gertrud Mara, or the unforgettable Luigi Marchesi, the long time collaborator of Myslivecek, one of the teachers/friends of Mozart.
And the same must be said of the whole family Linley (the young Tommasino of Mozart’s biographies, Mozart met in Florence, his father Thomas the elder and especially the sister of Tommasino the singer Elizabeth Ann Linley Sheridan), with its profound connections with the Bath circles of culture and music and so with Rauzzini and the Storaces.
And the same must be said of many other famous Mozartian personages like the composers Sarti, Cherubini, Salieri, Paisiello, Cimarosa, Pleyel and especially Martín y Soler, Stephen Storace, Thomas Attwood, the singers Michael Kelly, Benucci, Bussani and the Mozartian poet par excellence Da Ponte, now depicted out of his Vienna environment (he was obliged to leave in 1791), trying to organize Opera Companies and new Opera dramas between Bruxelles and London with the possible help of the Storaces and then of Martín y Soler.
A special mention here goes to the episode of Mozart’s engagement for the London Italian Opera Theatre, the details of which are usually rather scarce in Mozart’s biographies. We learn now how a London consortium led by Robert Bray O’Reilly at the head of the Pantheon Opera Theatre and representing a group of high English aristocrats (the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Bedford, the Marquess of Salisbury), in 1790, tries to engage Nancy Storace for some new Italian Operas in London to be written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We know how Mozart, de facto, refused such proposals mainly to respect his 1787 agreement with the Vienna Imperial Court and also to avoid a direct rivalry in London with his friend Joseph Haydn, who was going to reach England for his famous First Tour (and probably Mozart was contacted also by Gallini and Salomon, before Haydn’s approval of the entire London project). However, the whole story of the destiny of the Pantheon Theatre led by O’Reilly, as recounted by Emmanuelle Pesqué, certainly casts some new and interesting light on the decisions of Mozart, and, after all (after the refusal of the proposals brought forward by the letter of O’Reilly of 26 October 1790, and after considering the total disaster, also financial, of the whole Pantheon Theatre Project in 1792), probably Mozart was right in refusing…


… and with Haydn in London.
What has been said for Mozart on the change in the point of view, must be said also for Haydn, even though on a lesser scale, since the friendly relationship between Storace and Haydn in Vienna had a substantial minor professional involvement (i.e. fundamentally Il Ritorno di Tobia on 28 and 30 April 1784). A major professional relation between Storace and Haydn occurred, instead, during the First London Tour of Haydn, with the active participation of the soprano at the famous Salomon-Haydn Series of concerts and then at the Haydnian festivities for his Doctoral degree received from the University of Oxford (July 1791, see The Gentleman’s Magazine and The Morning Herald).

The multitudes of the unknown minor composers.
Another peculiar and notable result of this approach used by Pesqué is the re-surfacing of a multitude of unknown minor composers positioned, with their operas, within their correct historical context.
These minor composers, particularly in the 18th century, were, in reality, the fundamental backbone of the Theatre Houses both in continental Europe and in England and many famous singers of that period, like Storace, Kelly and Braham etc., in various occasions, owed them a lot: the success of their careers, especially at the beginning, a wide spread notoriety through vocal scores rapidly available and even odd opera pastiches, which the public liked very much and paid for.
We remember here Basili, Moneta, Nasolini, Nicolini, Gnecco, Mayr, Isola, Zingarelli, Bianchi, Mazzinghi, Reeve, Moorehead, Davy, Corri and many others, who now are just names, but who built, with their minor works, the theatrical good fortune and success of the great opera singers of the 18th and of the 19th century.

A generation of opera singers, who were also composers.
One aspect of the actual musical practice of the 18th century that may really impress both the scholars and the amateurs and the modern musicians and singers is the fairly good level of technical preparation in music composition, which characterized many opera singers of that Era.
One certainly remember the famous conversation between Michael Kelly and Mozart on this subject and how Mozart defined this particular category of composers, more or less, the melodists.
It is a fact that from the pages of this book, we discover how various opera singers, of the 18th century, like the great Rauzzini himself, were capable of composing music, writing arias, organizing an entire opera and treating the orchestration.
Not only the opera singer Michael Kelly was able to write music for himself and to compose entire operas, but, according to some source of that period, in 1796 he and his lifelong friend Nancy Storace managed to complete, in London, an entire opera left unfinished by the brother of Nancy, Stephen. So it seems that even Nancy Storace was a sufficiently good connoisseur of music composition and of its rules to help Michael Kelly in his work!
A particular situation was that of John Braham, who, through his entire life, mostly wrote by himself the music he was going to perform in public and left at least seven operas intentionally written for himself and for Nancy Storace (1802-1808), his mate in everyday life, but never his wife.
However it must be said that, in many occasions, such operas written by the melodists certainly enormously pleased the enthusiastic public and were a good bargain, in terms of money, but, on the other hand, showed clear signs of re-working and re-organizing music materials, ideas and fragments derived from great first-rate composers, like Mozart, Haydn, Paisiello, Sarti, etc. without openly declaring it… and sometimes even the newspapers of that period, usually vague on this subject, noticed that.
Along with the popular successes of these types of operas or opera-pastiches, the book by Pesqué well documents the incredibly slow path that led to the premieres of the most famous Mozart’s operas in England at the beginning of the 19th century. The first complete version of Le Nozze di Figaro (1786) premiered in London only in June 1812 after ten years from one of the first concerts there with fragments from Le Nozze di Figaro and Idomeneo (1802). And the years 1811 and 1812 are fundamental for a first wider diffusion of Mozart’s music in London, after so many years of concerts performing mostly only segments and re-worked and re-written pieces. In May 1811 we have the performance of Così Fan Tutte and in March 1812 La Clemenza di Tito (which premiered in 1806): so Mozart’s music in England is now finally well established in 1810s.


From Fisher to Braham: the unpredictable trails of destiny.
A fundamental part of this book is dedicated to the two major male figures and love interests of Nancy Storace: John Abraham Fisher and John Braham.
The complicated and in many ways still mysterious affair and marriage with the violinist and composer John Abraham Fisher (Vienna, March 1784 and ended a few months later by personal act and will of the emperor Joseph II) is treated by Pesqué with the addition of new important updated information on the subject.
Behind this unhappy marriage, we may see even various possible mistakes made by Nancy Storace in her relationship with Fisher, mistakes which may have led her husband to the well known unacceptable behaviour, among them the suspect induced by her acts of an adulterine relation with the opera singer Benucci. Besides the possible real responsibilities of J.A.Fisher (ca. 40 years old) in ill-treating Nancy Storace (18 years old), the brother of the soprano, Stephen Storace, considered the marriage of his sister a «ridiculous marriage» (June 1785, while in conversation with Orsini-Rosenberg) and declared that his sister is a «testarda» (stubborn or even mulish) and that that caused the disaster in her marriage.
Thanks also to the results of the archival works carried on by notable scholars such as Dorothea Link and Michael Lorenz, Emmanuelle Pesqué has finally had the possibility of giving a new and detailed account on the birth and death of Josepha Fisher (b. 30 January 1785 – d.17 July 1785), putting an end to other various forms of speculations on this matter.
The importance of this period (1784-1785: the unhappy marriage and the death of her daughter) in the life of Nancy Storace is curiously determined not by the facts themselves, but by the incredible effects that such personal vicissitudes of Storace had on the life and on the artistic development of Mozart himself.
Mozart’s unfinished opera Lo sposo deluso K. 430 was especially designed by Mozart (between March and Autumn 1784) and by an unknown librettist to be performed by Nancy Storace (then called Fisher, i.e. Sig.ra fischer [sic! by Mozart], according to her new surname as married woman) as soprano. The most interesting thing about this otherwise still mysterious work is the title itself, which has certainly some connection with Gli sposi malcontenti by the composer Stephen Storace, brother of Nancy, an opera which premiered in Vienna on 1 June 1785 with Nancy as leading character. The opera written by Stephen Storace had an obvious open connection with the publicly notorious unhappy marriage of Nancy with Fisher in 1784, so one may wonder whether within the Vienna Imperial Court some manoeuvres were already underway in 1784 in order to have finally an Italian Opera composed by Mozart and that the possibility of covering up a budding Imperial Court scandal, such as the ill-fated marriage of Nancy, by spoofing it through a public comic opera might have been a good service to the emperor Joseph II and the Imperial Court.
Was it Da Ponte, who was manoeuvring in favour of Mozart?
We can’t say at the present state of the archival and documentary sources, however it is a fact that, curiously enough, in 1785 Mozart, even though he had not produced any Italian opera in Vienna yet and Le Nozze di Figaro had to premiere only in May 1786, was called to compose a brief Cantata written by Da Ponte himself in honour of Nancy Storace: Per la ricuperata salute di Ofelia K. 477a. As is well known, this cantata (composed in collaboration with Salieri and a mysterious Cornetti and considered lost until November 2015, when the original score re-surfaced from the archives of Prague) was written by Da Ponte to celebrate the newly recovered health of Nancy Storace, who had to face, between June and September 1785, various personal dramatic moments, like the failure of her voice during a performance at Opera and the death of her daughter Josepha in July.
The long relation (both professional and sentimental) with the singer and composer John Braham is accurately treated in details from page 233 to 351, leading the reader into a kaleidoscopic world of those many personages, who, from the 1790s to 1820s, were the main characters of the theatre of the world: from Nelson to Lady Hamilton, from the English Royal family to Lord Byron, from the Bonaparte family and the French Revolution to J.M.W. Turner and John Ruskin, etc. Among the many intriguing episodes of this period a special mention must be made of two particularly interesting sections of Pesqué’s book: the European and Italian Tour of Nancy and Braham (1797-1801), which well reconstructs the panorama of Opera in France, in Italy and in Germany in the much troubled years of the French Revolution and of the first Napoleonic Wars and the intricate scandal of the affair of Braham with the wife of Henry Wright and the abandonment of Nancy Storace in 1816, a scandal which may have led, in the end, through an incredible twist of history, to a major role of the firm Jardine, Matheson & Co. in the First Opium War (1839-1842).




Which perspectives for the Historically Informed musical practice? Something to ponder.
All those interested in the Historically Informed musical practice will find, in the narration and in the structure of this book, a fundamental motive of further reflection on what we consider philological or not in musical practice.
As Pesqué has largely demonstrated with her book, most of the success of these very well paid opera singers of 18th and 19th century was based, in reality, on versions of the operas, which, in many cases, had nothing to do with the original versions penned by the composers.
The rewriting of arias and sections of the operas and literally plenty of insertion numbers (i.e. arias etc.) written sometimes by another group of three or four different music composers, who had nothing to do with the first original composer, created an Opera Theatre business, regularly fed by operas which were, in reality, big pastiches, which sometimes retained, of the original concept of the first author, almost only the main title of the opera.
Hence, in conclusion, if in the 21th century we’d like to produce an Historically Informed reconstruction of an 18th century opera, which version we should consider really philological? The original one written by the first composer or the pastiche version with its great amount of insertion numbers, which was heartily welcomed by the audiences?
Certainly it’s something to ponder…
… and we are not touching here the delicate aspect of interpretation, since evidently, according to the original sources of that Era, in the 18th century there was a strong appeal towards a rather expressionist way of acting and performing (and it seems that part of the theatrical good fortune of Nancy Storace was also due to her special cheeky way of singing, dancing and, so to say, playing on the stage: what a magnificent Susanna!) and to what we may call, in modern terms, towards over-interpretation, whereas the modern music schools have a not always too acceptable interest rather in toned-down or even shabby interpretations (under-interpretation?), as if music may only mechanically exist, like an anonymous depersonalized entity (but beware of the famous ominous musicus mechanicus, as Mozart wrote in his letters!).

A reference book and the Internet on-line resources.
The book on Nancy Storace by Emmanuelle Pesqué is a book characterized by a beautiful and fluid readability. So, despite the accuracy and the many details, the book itself can be easily read as an intriguing novel.
Nonetheless, the Avant-propos, the first chapters of the book devoted to the origin of the family of Nancy Storace and to the flourishing music and entertainment business (e.g. the Pleasure Gardens) that this family manages to establish in London between 1740s and 1770s, the final chapters on the portraits of Nancy Storace and on Nancy Storace as a character of various fictional productions and the technical section at the end of book (the collection of rare images, the extremely detailed chronology of her theatrical career divided per seasons, the important collection of titles and synopses of extremely rare and now almost neglected English Operas written for Nancy Storace, the updated and extremely detailed bibliography and the discography) confer on the book by Pesqué also the status of an interesting and valuable Reference Book on the history of Opera Theatre between London and Vienna.
The Internet site run by the author of the book herself ( further enrich the experience of this book with other updates and rare materials.

S. & L.M. Jennarelli