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Mozart and the Enlightenment


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Till, who has directed operas at the Glyndebourne Festival, approaches the interpretive difficulties involved in staging Mozart's operas by analyzing the works in relation to the social, political, moral, philosophical and religious climate of the late 18th century. In the early opera, La Finta Giardiniera , Till finds an expression of the moral sentiments of the bourgeois Enlightenment and the influence of Rousseau; Le Nozze di Figaro illustrates the importance of contractual relationships in bourgeois society; the character of Don Giovanni represents a destructive force threatening the codes of conduct that separated the Enlightenment from the supposed age of chaos that preceded it. Till draws on the authority of an impressive array of writers and thinkers to develop his ideas, but his excessive erudition and convoluted writing style obfuscates rather than resolves the problems he addresses. He also ignores the music, the component of opera that is fundamental to discussion of the drama. Illustrated. (Apr.)

One might have hoped there would be a moratorium on books about Mozart after the excesses of his recent bicentennial, but this reviewer would gladly make an exception for this one. This critical study grew from practical necessity: the author, who has directed operas at the Glyndebourne Festival, encountered seeming contradictions in staging Mozart and felt that their resolution lay in learning more about the age that gave rise to them. The result of his investigations brims with fascinating and original insights into aspects of Mozart's life as well as his operas. A few examples: Till sheds new and favorable light on two of Mozart's adversaries, his father and the despised Archbishop Colloredo. He links Mozart's Catholicism and his involvement with the Freemasons. He reassesses Mozart's own marriage in light of the world view implicit in Le Nozze di Figaro . He juxtaposes Cosi fan tutte with Die Zauberflote . Highly recommended for large music collections.-- E. Gaub, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.

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