|Singspiel by W. A. Mozart|
The composer, drawing by Doris Stock, 1789
7 February 1786
Schönbrunn Palace Orangery, Vienna
Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario), K. 486, is a comic singspiel by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, set to a German libretto by Gottlieb Stephanie, an Austrian Schauspieldirektor. Originally, it was written because of "the imperial command" of the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II who had invited 80 guests to a private luncheon. It is regarded as "a parody on the vanity of singers", who argue over status and pay.
Mozart, who describes it as "comedy with music" wrote it as his entry in a musical competition which was given a private performance hosted on 7 February 1786 by Joseph II at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. This competition pitted a German singspiel, presented at one end of the room, against a competing Italian opera, the Italian entry being Antonio Salieri's opera buffa, Prima la musica e poi le parole (First the Music, then the Words), which was then given at the other end of the room. The premiere was followed by the first of three public performances given four days later at the Kärntnertor Theater, Vienna, on 11 February.
The work was written during a very creative period in Mozart's life, at the same time as his Le nozze di Figaro, which premiered later the same year, along with three piano concertos and "another dozen major works".
In addition to the overture, there are only four vocal numbers in the score, and the musical content (about 30 minutes) is surrounded by much spoken dialogue, typical in its day. One highlight, which Erik Smith describes as very funny, is where "each lady sings about the nobility of her art while trying to defeat her rival with ever higher notes". Although it has been described as a "silly farce", Mozart appears to have taken the opportunity to write serious arias and thus the "audition" of Madame Herz includes her aria "Da schlägt die Abschiedsstunde" ("There tolls the hour of departure"), while Mme Silberklang sings the elegant rondo, "Bester Jüngling" ("Dearest Youth").
In modern times, the text is usually completely rewritten for contemporary relevance, which was the case for the 2014 production given by the Santa Fe Opera. There it had "English dialogue by the British dramatist Ranjit Bolt and additional Mozart concert arias folded into the score" with the action taking place in Paris in the 1920s. The cast included Anthony Michaels-Moore, Brenda Rae, Meredith Arwady, and Erin Morley.
The 1966 recording by the English Chamber Orchestra (conducted by André Previn), was performed with an English libretto penned by Previn's then wife Dory Previn, who transplanted the amusing tale to the 20th century.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 7 February 1786|
(Conductor: - )
|Frank, an impresario||spoken role||Johann Gottlieb Stephanie Jr.|
|Eiler, a banker||spoken role||Johann Franz Hieronymus Brockmann|
|Buff, a buffo singer||bass||Joseph Weidmann|
|Monsieur Vogelsang, a singer||tenor||Valentin Adamberger|
|Madame Herz, a singer||soprano||Aloysia Weber|
|Mademoiselle Silberklang, a singer||soprano||Caterina Cavalieri|
|Herz, an actor||spoken role||Joseph Lange|
|Madame Pfeil, an actress||spoken role||Anna Maria Stephanie|
|Madame Krone, an actress||spoken role||Johanna Sacco|
|Madame Vogelsang, an actress||spoken role||Maria Anna Adamberger|
Frank, the impresario (along with the buffo singer, Buff, who assists him) audition two actresses to be part of his new theatrical company. While both are hired, they then argue over who will get the prime role and who will be paid the most. To illustrate their strengths, each sings a striking aria to back her claim (Herz: "Da schlägt die Abschiedsstunde", Silberklang: "Bester Jüngling"). An agreement is reached when the tenor, Vogelsang, intervenes, in what Julian Rushton describes as a hilarious trio, "Ich bin die erste Sängerin" (I am the prima donna) compromise is agreed to with each receiving "large salaries and star billing". The work ended with the quartet "Jeder Künstler strebt nach Ehre" (Every artist strives for glory).
Opera house and orchestra
English Chamber Orchestra
Leo McKern as Impresario
Sleeve notes by George R. Marek
Hermann Christian Polster
|CD: Berlin Classics|
Cat: 9136. Complete recording of 10 scenes including those spoken.
Also used in Brilliant Classics' Mozart - Complete Works.
|CD: Deutsche Grammophon|
Cat: DG 429 877-2 (+ Die Zauberflöte)
Harry van der Kamp
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Cat: 8 43336 (+ Salieri's Prima la musica, poi la parole)
Kiri Te Kanawa,
Cat: 475 7049 (+ concert arias)
Cat: 80573 (+ Der wohltätige Derwisch by Benedikt Schack)