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Mozart´s third visit to Prague, August – September 1791

Mozart´s last journey to Prague was not as joyful as the previous two. In the summer of 1791 when he was working on Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) and the Requiem he received a hasty commission for a coronation opera for Prague on the occasion of the coronation of Leopold II as King of Bohemia. Opera had traditionally given the coronation celebrations in Prague a glorious touch ever since 1627 when Ferdinand II became King of Bohemia.

Mozart arrived in Prague at the end of August, just a short time before the coronation, which was to be held on 6 September. Only a short time was left for Mozart to finish and rehears the opera. Apart from that Mozart was asked to conduct a solemn performance of Don Giovanni on 2 September. That evening was probably the most joyful of his whole last stay in Prague. The performance was attended by the whole Viennese court and according to witnesses it was a superior artistic event. Next 1... For example, the official Coronation Journal wrote: "Admittedly the ensemble of Mr Guardasoni performs the piece excellently."

In contrast with such success the opera La clemenza di Tito, premiered on 6 September 1791, was met with little interest from the court. The Empress is said to have denounced the opera calling it "una porcheria tedesca" (a piece of German filth), but there is no direct document of this statement. Period records show though that this was caused by Viennese nobility´s prejudice against Mozart´s music and person rather than by a poor quality of the opera. Nevertheless, the failure only enhanced Mozart´s miserable situation caused by illness and financial problems.

He said his last good bye to Prague a few days after the premiere. His first biographer Frantisek Niemetschek recorded his departure: "His skin was pale and face sad, though he often showed his lively humour in the company of friends by making funny jokes. When saying good-bye to his closest friends he was so sad that he was weeping. It seems that this mournful mood was caused by the anticipation of an approaching end – at that time the illness that was to destroy him soon had already started."

When Mozart died on 5th December 1791, the members of the Prague theatre orchestra organized a solemn ceremony with the Requiem Mass by Frantisek Rössler-Rosetti performed among others by Josepha Duschek at the Church of St Nicholas in the Lesser Town on 14th December. Four thousand Praguers came to honour his memory.

 
       

       
 



Memories of the Saxon nobleman Alexander von Kleist of the performance of Don Giovanni held on 2 September 1791

Never have I left an opera house so richly rewarded as today, when I saw so many people, notable in such different ways, in one place… The Emperor seemed pleased with his welcome and bowed to the spectators a few times… With a gesture a little man in a green coat, whose eye proclaims what his modest appearance would conceal, bids me attend to more attractive maters. It is Mozart, whose opera Don Juan is to be given today, whose joy it is to see for himself the transports into which his glorious harmonies put the audience’s hearts. Who in the whole house can be more proud and glad than he? Who can derive more satisfaction from his own self than he? In vain would monarchs exhaust their treasures, in vain ancestral pride its riches: these cannot buy one little spark of the feeling with which Art rewards her darlings! All men must fear Death, only the artist fears him not. He will still move future generations when the bones of kings have long since mouldered away. And secure in these convictions Mozart could stand there… Be it fanatical enthusiasm, be it genuine human feeling: enough, at that moment I would rather have been Mozart than [the Emperor] Leopold.

 
       

 
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