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Sunday 21 October 2018

The marriage of Mozart: a truly opera-worthy tale

Party row: Wolfgang Amadeus and Constanze Weber
Party row: Wolfgang Amadeus and Constanze Weber

George Hamilton

Today is Mozart's wedding anniversary. It was on Sunday, August 4, 1782, that Wolfgang Amadeus and Constanze Weber were married in St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. He was 26, she just 20.

The story of how they fell in love and eventually became man and wife would fit well in one of his operas.

Mozart had been a prodigy. His violinist father Leopold had toured him around Europe to show off his talent. So it was frustrating for both of them that, as a young man, he could find no steady employment as a musician.

With prospects at home in Salzburg non-existent, around Halloween in 1777, the by-now 21-year-old Mozart headed off with his mother, Anna Maria, for Mannheim in Germany, then the centre of musical excellence.

Constantly in need of money, Mozart would give music lessons wherever he ended up. Among his students in Mannheim were four young women, daughters of Fridolin Weber, half-brother of the father of the composer Carl Maria von Weber.

The Weber girls were all talented singers, and Mozart was smitten by the second eldest, Aloysia. She was a budding soprano.

Mozart wanted to take her on a concert tour to Italy, but when word reached his father, he was outraged. Sponsoring one of the Weber girls was not going to help Wolfgang's career.

Instead, Leopold insisted that mother and son should move on to Paris where he'd enjoyed great success as a youngster. But times had changed. Paris proved a tough nut to crack.

After a few miserable months, he finally struck gold with his Symphony No 31 - the one now known as the 'Paris'. But not long after, Anna Maria succumbed to a sudden, fatal illness. Not only that, but in his absence, Aloysia's feelings for him had cooled.

Leopold found his son employment in Salzburg, and though Wolfgang found the working environment oppressive, he did well enough to get himself a transfer to the brighter lights of Vienna.

At this point, the romantic tale took a twist. The Webers were now living there. Fridolin had died, and they were renting out rooms to help make ends meet.

Mozart moved in, much to his father's disgust. And it got worse for Leopold. His son promptly fell for another of the Weber girls.

The affection that Wolfgang and Constanze Weber showed for each other all got a bit too much for the girl's mother. For the sake of propriety, Mozart had to move out.

But that by no means cooled his ardour, and Frau Weber came around to the view that he might indeed be a good match for her daughter. Not so Leopold Mozart, who saw no advantage at all in the liaison, and was dead against it.

But Wolfgang was determined, and so was his bride-to-be. Though they broke up briefly after a row over a party game of forfeits - Constanze had had to allow a young man to measure her calves and took it badly when Mozart told her off in no uncertain terms - they were soon back together again.

And living together, it appears. For Constanze's mother was threatening all sorts of legal action to save the family name.

Wolfgang saw only one way out, and that was to marry Constanze, with or without his father's consent. The wedding was hastily arranged for their local church, which just happened to be the cathedral. A letter from Leopold giving the happy couple his blessing arrived the next day.

George Hamilton presents The Hamilton Scores on RTÉ lyric fm from 10am each Saturday and Sunday

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