Topics: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Opera, Don Giovanni Pages: 6 (1242 words) Published: March 21, 2013

Oh Susanna: The Wise Women of Mozart
In Mozart's operas, as in his life, says Anat Sharon of the Department of Literature, Language and the Arts at the Open University, women rather than men are the ones who come out on top and who win our hearts. Mozart loved and valued women in his personal life and this was reflected in his operas. Through brilliant musical interpretations, his sympathetic, vividly-drawn portraits make audiences love even the most evil of women.

Mozart's fascinating, complex female
operatic characters are more than
simply great musical creations. They
also reflect the value Mozart himself
placed on the women in his personal
life. The women who were influential
in Mozart's personal life were his
mother Anna Maria; his talented sister
Nannerl; his cousin Maria Anna; the
woman whom he loved in his youth,
Aloysia Weber; and her sister, his
beloved wife Constanze.

in the dramatic design of the plot. He
didn't just receive completed texts; he
also placed his personal stamp on the
characters. One outstanding example
of a musical image of a woman that
is actually opposed to the text is the
Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute.
In the story, her character is absolutely
a negative one. But Mozart gave her the
most beautiful, much-loved arias that
make the audience adore her. Thanks
to Mozart's music, an image that could
easily have been one-sided is in fact
something much more complex."

In a recent lecture, Anat Sharon
discussed the way that Mozart
depicted women on stage rising above
every test that men subject them to.
Clearly, Mozart related to the women
differently from the way he related to
According to Anat Sharon, "Mozart's
attitude to women can be considered
both in terms of their standing in society
as a whole and in terms of his personal
life. Mozart himself was open-minded
and aware of the lack of justice and
equality in the feudal society in which
he found himself. In the court of the
Archbishop of Salzburg, where he
lived and worked as a musician, he
was considered no more than a kind of
"It is clear that this social order
outraged him not only with regard to
what he considered his own servitude,
but also with regard to women.
Therefore, sometimes women in his
operas work together to protect their
interests against the joint 'enemy'– men.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at piano
with muses by Hausleitner
(Lebrecht Music and Arts)

There is no doubt that the depictions of
women in Mozart's operas are deeper,
broader and more interesting than the
depictions of men."
The question is how much of this slant
is due to the librettist and how much to
Mozart himself.
According to Anat Sharon, "In the
operas Mozart wrote with librettist
Lorenzo da Ponte, The Marriage
of Figaro, Così fan Tutte and Don
Giovanni, Mozart was a full partner

Anat Sharon explains, "One of the
most idealized feminine characters of
all in Mozart's operas is in fact not a
noblewoman but a servant. That is
Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro.
Although traditionally in the commedia
dell'arte, servants are more full of life
and wit than their employers, Susanna
is much more than this. She is an
intelligent woman who knows how
to read, write and play music. In one
scene, Susanna and the Countess sit
and together write a letter in which they
help catch the Count in his betrayal. The
countess dictates and Susanna writes;
an example of two women working
in harmony against men. The music
also reflects the relationship between
the two. They sing a soprano duet in
which the countess sings and Susanna
replies. The melodies and words are
so intermingled that it is virtually
impossible to determine which woman
is singing which melody. In effect, the
two become one. Though this is not
explicitly stated in the libretto, the

this is all in their imaginations, but in
All Women Do That (Così Fan Tutte),
it turns...
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