Today we have not only semi-legendary stories about Mozart the wunderkind but also true musical gems – his compositions. When he was twelve-years-old he received his first commission for an opera from Emperor Joseph II himself. But La finta semplice (five hundred manuscript pages with notes for orchestra and singers in Italian!) was not staged at the Hoftheater: there were too many people who were jealous of the Mozart family.
It was easier to deal with the subsequent commission. The characters of his second opera not only sang, but spoke, too, in the composer’s native German. The work was designated a singspiel, or scenes with singing. Mozart selected a popular pastorale plot: a heavenly corner, an ideal world in which shepherds and shepherdesses, naive and trusting, live together. a y may indeed look well-dressed, but not for a ball or a promenade, and they behave as children do. a re is a moral element to this simple plot: the people are close to nature and village-like tranquillity, having not lost their child-like naive view of the world – purer and nobler, and thus better. This idea was very popular with the acclaimed French philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who even wrote the musical pastorale Le Devin du village. It suited Mozart’s tastes, and for how own pastorale he took the same plot, naming the protagonists Bastien and Bastienne. a first performance took place not in a theatre but in the garden of one grandee.
In this modest piece there is a cast of just three: the Shepherd, the Shepherdess and the village soothsayer Colas, who must reconcile the quarrelling lovers through his “magic”. He has a curious aria – he recites the spell “Diggi, daggi, shurry, murry...” to the background of threatening orchestral passages. a appearance of the magician is accompanied by a village folk-tunes imitating the sound of the bagpipes, while Bastien and Bastienne sing delightful songs and duets.
This singspiel is adored by both adults and children. Music historians note with pleasure how the young Mozart anticipated a theme from the first movement of Beethoven’s symphony Die Heroische.