Giddy sugarplum or calculating bitch? Pretty Konstanze aroused strong feelings among her contemporaries. Her in-law’s loathed her. Mozart’s friends, more than forty years after his death remained eager to gossip about her “failures” as wife to the world’s first superstar. Maturing from child to wife to hard-headed widow, Konstanze would pay Mozart’s debts, provide for their children and relentlessly market and mythologize her brilliant husband.
Mozart’s letters attest to his affection for Konstanze as was to their powerful sexual bond. Nevertheless, among the many mysteries surrounding the composer’s untimely death–why did his “best beloved” Konstanze never mark his grave?
Targeted Age Group:: adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Amadeus–years ago. I became fascinated with Wolfgang's wife and wondered about her life–what it was really like to live with the World's First Superstar. One scene which particularly moved me showed her with a baby in her arms, coping with a late night arrival of Mozart and his drunken friends. "Anonymous was a woman" and Konstanze Mozart was pretty close to that, which is what I found when I began to attempt to research her. As a child I endured my parents' bitter divorce; I began to believe I had some insight into her character, a woman who refused to mark the site of her husband's grave. Love begins marriages, but does not always end them.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I read tons of primary source material, letters, diaries and contemporary accounts of Mozart. Naturally I was interested in where they lived and how often they moved, as this would have been woman's work, delegated to his wife. Her pregnancies, too, became of interest to me, and I studied 18th Century childbearing practices and beliefs in order to understand her experience. Contraception of any sort could have made Konstanze's life much easier and I found myself thanking heaven I live now and not then.
At sixteen, my big sister Aloysia looked like the painted goddesses who reclined voluptuously above our heads on the ceiling of the opera house. Like them, she was blonde, rosy, round breasted, and narrow waisted. Although she didn’t fall in love with Mozart, as both he and my parents so ardently wished, I did.
It happened because Papa staunchly maintained that no matter how tight things were, we could, “Always spare a little beer and some of Jo’s fine liver dumplings.” He was forever bringing home traveling musicians from the court, absolutely certain that one of these fellows would be useful. Mama never believed his hospitality would yield anything to our advantage, but this peccadillo was the only one my father owned.
Some of our guests were famous, most were not. All, however, had exciting stories to tell about the great courts they’d seen and famous performers they’d heard. Besides, once they set eyes on Aloysia, they were glad to spend an evening giving impromptu lessons.
The most notable wanderer Papa brought home was Wolfgang Mozart. He had stopped at the Mannheim court on his way to Paris. After composing a piece for one of our noblemen, Herr Mozart had required a copyist.
He was naturally, directed to my Papa, whose desperation was such that he took on every kind of odd job. Of course, Papa knew of him, this miracle of nature who’d been entertaining kings since his sixth year.
With the copying job finished, Papa took his pay and invited the famous Herr Mozart to The Ox. After downing a stein of our justly famous beer, they would harmonize on a familiar tune—the treachery of the nobility. It quickly became apparent that our families had much in common.
The story of Papa’s fall, without the questionable details with which Mama liked to embellish it, was central. Years ago, as a bailiff for Baron Schonau, Papa had provided handsomely for his growing family.
His master, finding him compliant (what poor man with four daughters to dower is not?) involved him in a crooked business deal. When the deal went bad, Schonau had the perfect scapegoat. In the end, we had to flee the baron’s lands in the middle of the night to escape arrest.
On horseback, Papa decoyed the pursuing politzei away, while Mama and the rest of us were driven across the border of the electorate in a farm wagon. Under the hay was hidden our klavier and a wardrobe; the latter stuffed with a random collection of whatever had come first to hand.
Mozart listened to this story of betrayal and ruin with great sympathy. He hated his master, Archbishop Colloredo, as thoroughly as Papa hated Baron Schonau. Mozart explained that his father, an educated man and an able musician, was constantly humiliated and bullied by the archbishop. In fact, Wolfgang was in Mannheim because he had resigned his commission and was traveling through the world looking for another.
Archbishop Colloredo was Mozart’s devil and Baron Schonau was Papa’s. They called for more beer and pondered the great question of the day: whether a talented, hardworking man could make his way in a world dominated by aristocratic privilege…
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