Having received with Your Excellency’s esteemed letter of the 21st of last month Her Majesty’s
latest orders regarding the opera to be given here next autumn, I have carried them out punctually,
giving when needed the corresponding instructions; and pursuant to the same, I will have Maestro
Mozart engaged for the composition of the music of the serenata, as I have selected to compose its
text the public professor of rhetoric Abbate Parini, who has already on other occasions made known
his taste and ability in poetry. [...]
This draft letter from Count Carlo di Firmian to Count Johann Wenzel Sporck is part of a longer exchange regarding preparations for the festivities surrounding the wedding of Archduke Ferdinand and Princess Maria Beatrice d’Este that coming autumn. On 9 Feb 1771, Firmian had informed Sporck that Empress Maria Theresia had left to Firmian the choice of composer and poet for a serenata that was to be commissioned for the festivities. In that letter, Firmian suggested Mozart as the composer. On 21 Feb, Sporck had responded that he had reported Firmian’s recommendations to the empress, and she had replied that she trusted Firmian’s judgment. On 7 Mar, Firmian had written to Count Lorenzo Salazar, direttore of the Regio Ducal Teatro in Milan, instructing him to write to Mozart in Verona (where he would arrive on 17 Mar) informing him of the commission for the serenata; this is the commission that became Ascanio in Alba. In the passage transcribed above from Firmian’s letter to Sporck two days later, Firmian writes that Mozart has now been informed, and Firmian has chosen the poet Giuseppe Parini to write the libretto. This seems to be the earliest reference to Parini in any known document relating to the imperial wedding in Milan in 1771.
Firmian’s letter to Sporck on 9 Mar 1771 was first mentioned by Andrea Sommer (later Sommer-Mathis) in 1981 in her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Vienna (Sommer 1981, 492). She does not transcribe any portion of the letter, and does not mention the reference to Mozart, which so far as we know is reported here for the first time. Sommer-Mathis also refers to Firmian’s letter in the book derived from her dissertation (Sommer-Mathis 1994, 207).
We are grateful to Michael Lorenz for his photographs of the documents in Vienna, HHStA, Ältere Zeremonialakten, Karton 84, and to Bruce Brown and Janet Page for their comments.
Sommer, Andrea. 1981. “‘Tu felix Austria nube’ aus theatrerwissenschaftlicher Sicht. Theatrale Festveranstaltungen anläßlich der Hochzeiten Maria Theresias und ihrer Kinder.” Ph.D. diss. University of Vienna.
Sommer-Mathis, Andrea. 1994. Tu felix Austria nube. Hochzeitsfeste der Habsburger im 18. Jahrhundert. dramma per musica, vol. 4. Vienna: Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag.
Credit: Andrea Sommer-Mathis
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First Published: Fri, 11 Aug 2023
Edge, Dexter. 2023. “Count Firmian to Count Sporck on Mozart’s serenata (9 March 1771).” In: Mozart: New Documents, edited by Dexter Edge and David Black. First published 11 August 2023. https://www.mozartdocuments.org/documents/9-march-1771/
Edge, Dexter. 2023. “Count Firmian to Count Sporck on Mozart’s serenata (9 March 1771).” In: Mozart: New Documents, edited by Dexter Edge and David Black. First published 11 August 2023. [direct link]