Mozart in Milan

The composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) traveled from Cremona to Milan by stagecoach on January 23, 1770, four days before his fourteenth birthday. He was traveling with his father, Leopold Mozart, on their first (of three) long journeys to Italy from their home in Salzburg.

Milan’s opera house at the time was the Regio Ducal Teatro, which was located next to the Cathedral at the site of the present Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace).

In the next three years Wolfgang wrote three operas for this opera house:

  • Mitridate, Re di Ponto had its premiere on December 26, 1770, with Wolfgang himself conducting and playing the keyboard for the first three performances. This opera was a huge success, and they kept playing it for months on end.
  • Ascanio in Alba was just as successful the next year, 1771.
  • Lucio Silla, his third and last Milan opera, was performed twenty-five times at the Regio Ducal Teatro starting in November 1772.

We had a beautiful production of Lucio Silla in Frankfurt from 1993 to 1995, and I’m listening to the CDs as I write this — amazing that Mozart was only sixteen when he composed this fantastic music!

In 2012 I saw another fine production of Lucio Silla at the opera house in Aachen, Germany. As I wrote in my post Singing in the reign, this was “part of a series of four Mozart operas all involving rulers who at first seem to be vicious tyrants but turn out to be lenient and kind-hearted in the end. This was a common ending for opera plots in the 17th and 18th centuries, since the local rulers were often the ones who paid for the operas — but today it’s very hard for the stage director to make the ruler’s sudden change of heart appear plausible on stage!”

Wolfgang and Leopold Mozart left Milan for the last time on March 4, 1773. Three years later the Regio Ducal Teatro burned down and was replaced by the Teatro alla Scala, a short distance away on the other side of the cathedral.

My photo in this post is from 2008. I revised the text in 2018.

See also: Mozart in Cremona.

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