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Celebrate Easter with Mozart

9 April 2020

Welsh National Opera favourite Mozart has a reputation as a bit of a party animal and would no doubt have used the Easter weekend as an excuse to celebrate. Salzburg is the perfectly orchestrated Alpine city, with some of Europe’s finest concert halls and uplifting mountain views that make you want to sing. So who was Mozart and how would he have celebrated Easter in his Austrian hometown?

'The miracle which God let be born in Salzburg' was how Leopold Mozart described his son. The house in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on 27 January 1756 is now one of the most frequently visited museums in the world. By the time Mozart was born, his elder sister, Nannerl, was already a talented pianist. Leopold presented his exceptionally gifted children before princely courts across Europe from 1762-1766.

In 1769 Mozart was made Konzertmeister to the Salzburg Court – a 13 year old boy was now composer and conductor to the prince archbishop of one of the major principalities of the Holy Roman Empire. His family lived on Getreidegasse in Salzburg for 26 years, moving to the Makartplatz Square in 1773.

Mozart’s Mass in C Major is one of his most popular and enduring works. It acquired the title ‘Coronation Mass’ following a performance conducted by Antonio Salieri in Prague at the Coronation of Leopold II as King of Bohemia in 1791, but the Mass was first performed on Easter Sunday 1779 at Salzburg Cathedral. The beautifully serene Agnus Dei inspired the melody of Countess Almaviva’s aria Dove Sono in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Mozart lived in a time when festivities were increasingly romantic and sociable, and Easter was widely celebrated in the 18th century. The Easter Bunny is perhaps one of the most recognisable symbols of the Spring and its origins trace back to German tradition. Both the Easter Bunny (Osterhase) and Easter eggs would have been around in Mozart’s day.

In Austria there are two kinds of Easter eggs - chocolate ones and decorative ones, real eggs which have been carefully blown beforehand so they are a hollow shell. They are then painted and decorated, before being hung in windows, on plants and on bunches of twigs to create an Osterbaum (Easter tree).

Salzburg
’s traditional Easter Market is held at the Open Air Museum, but you’d be more likely to find Mozart at the Salzburg’s Osterfestspiele (Easter Festival). Lasting ten days from the Saturday before Palm Sunday to Easter Monday itself, the festival offers opera, orchestral and choral concerts as well as chamber music. If Mozart was alive today, he’d likely be rushing around premiering new works and starring as the soloist of his own piano concertos.

However you’re celebrating - WNO wishes you a Frohe Ostern (Happy Easter)!