Mozart and l'impresario
Schmusch, Rainer and Michelle, Biget-Mainfroy (eds.)
'L'esprit francais' und die musik europas: entstehung, einfluß und grenzen einer ästhetischen doktrin.
In May 1856, less than a year after opening, Jacques Offenbach’s Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens mounted a production of Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor entitled L’Impresario. Originally written in 1786 as a play with music consisting of no more than an overture and four numbers, Der Schauspieldirektor posed problems for would-be performers throughout the nineteenth century. Attempts to turn it into a one-act comic opera included adding numbers from Cimarosa’s L’impresario in angustie (1791), and from operas by Dittersdorf and others (1814). Louis Schneider’s solution for Berlin (1845) lengthened the opera by adding in songs and romances from elsewhere in Mozart’s own output. This served as the basis for Offenbach’s version a decade later, when Léon Battu and Ludovic Halévy wrote a completely new libretto to turn the Singspiel into an opéra bouffe for Offenbach’s troupe.
L’Impresario enhanced the status of the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens when previously its activities had barely been considered seriously by the press, and also contributed significantly to the enshrinement of Mozart in Paris in his centenary year. Offenbach’s cast, selected from recent Conservatoire graduates, avoided the comic duo who had ensured the troupe’s earlier success in an attempt to sustain an image of the work to equal that of Don Giovanni or Le nozze di Figaro. In complicating the relationship between composer and entrepreneur both on and off the stage, L’Impresario brought Mozart into Offenbach’s theatrical world and invited operatic collusion between what was emerging as high and low art: the reception of Mozart and operetta.
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