contributo di Robert Newman


On 10th January 1768 the 12 year old Mozart and his father Leopold arrived in Vienna. The family hoped Wolfgang would obtain success in the city as a composer of works for the stage.

But things did not work well. Vienna was very suspicious of Mozart’s musical abilities. Only a few weeks later Leopold writes to a friend in Salzburg –

‘The people here in Vienna carefully avoid every chance of seeing us and of admitting to Wolfgang's musical skill, so that many times when they can be asked if they have heard this boy’s (Wolfgang’s) music and what they thought of him, they could always say they had not heard him or his music and that it could not possibly be true - that his reputation was completely fiction and foolishness - that everything he did was all pre-arranged - that Wolfgang was given music by other people which he already knew - that he was ridiculous etc ....' - (Leopold Mozart, Vienna, January 1768 – Letter to Salzburg friend on the reaction of the Viennese public and musicians about Wolfgang, his son).

Here, in Vienna, at last, Mozart and his father were not trusted. Leopold’s reaction was predictable. He used all his influence to obtain a meeting with the Empress Maria Theresa and her son, Emperor Joseph 2nd. Arguing that discourteous treatment to Wolfgang was unfair it was agreed to commission the 12 year old boy to write an opera buffa for Vienna. Mozart’s father continued to protest about their treatment bu the Viennese and sent a list of supposed works to the Empress written by his son.

The commission was for ‘La Finta Semplice’ - payment to be 100 Ducats on completion. They were asked to contact the Vienna theatre director Giuseppe Affligio (1722-1788). Leopold, satisfied with this offer, went to see Affligio. (Affligio had 1 year before been given a 10 year contract to manage the two largest theatres in Vienna).

(Note - 'La Finta Semplice’ an opera that had already been staged in Vienna in 1764 with a libretto by Salvatore Perillo – based on a play by Goldon)i.

Leopold and Wolfgang decided a few days later to return to Salzburg and work began on composition of the new piece. By March Leopold wrote that the composition is going well. By June the score is complete. (It consists of some 558 pages of music).

Father and son now returned to Vienna and presented the work to Affligio so that rehearsals could begin.

But there a major problem. Affligio (who obviously benefits financially if the opera is performed) is convinced this music is NOT by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. So are the singers. He dares to say so. In fact Affligio (agreeing with other musicians in Vienna) tells Leopold this opera has been 'ghost written' and was NOT the product of the 12 year old boy. Leopold is deeply offended – once again. But now the orchestra and the singers (who reluctantly work with the boy Mozart for a few more days on the piece) agree with Affligio - the work is definitely NOT by Wolfgang.

What happens next ? Well, Leopold now writes at length to the Emperor and Empress (the Empress keen to know the truth) and encloses with his letter the long list of (supposed) compositions already written by his son. (It's this list which is the first attempted inventory of 'Mozart's music thus far).

But the Emperor, despite having commissioned the work, now decides these matters are becoming a public scandal. He decides there are good reasons to abandon the whole opera. Highly significant is the fact that Mozart is not paid. Also, ‘La Finta Semplice’ is cancelled in Vienna and the Mozart’s return to Salzburg once again. In Salzburg their Jesuit friends arrange for the work to be performed, once, in 1769. (But Salzburg, of course, was not part of the Austrian/Hungarian Empire at this time).

As for Affligio, he continued working in Vienna as per his contract but his theatres start to lose money. In a few more years he is obliged to transfer their control to a nobleman, Count Kohary. And, most remarkably, in 1778 Affligio is arrested. (Mozart at this time is now 22 years old). He was then accused of forgery. And, the following year, the man who challenged Mozart and his father is condemned to life imprisonment on the island of Elba - the island where, 9 years later, this same Affligio dies.

I tell this remarkable story to show that time after time things occur in the life and career of Mozart which call in to question the musical abilities and productions of this composer.

Robert Newman


(b. Naples, 16 Mar. 1722; d. Portoferraio, Elba, 23 June 1788). Theatrical impresario. Described by Casanova as having the ‘face of a gallows bird’, Affligio travelled before signing a ten-year contract, in 1767, as theatrical impresario in Vienna. Financial crises later forced him to share management of the theatres under his direction, first with Baron Bender, then with Gluck, before in 1770 transfering control to a Hungarian, Count Kohary. In 1778 Affligio was arrested for forgery and in 1779 condemned to life imprisonment.  

G. Affligio, Vita di Giuseppe Affligio, ed. G. Croll and H. Wagner (Kassel, 1977)

Casanova, Mémoires, ed. R. Abirached (Paris, 1958–60)

J.-G. Prod’homme, ‘Deux collaborateurs italiens de Gluck.: Giuseppe d’Affligio’, Rivista Musicale Italiana 23 (1916), 210–18

Also - ‘Vita de Giuseppe Affligio‘, Lebengesichte die Giuseppe Afflation - Nachlass von Berhard Baumgartner (1887-1981)

(Paumgartner was very conservative - he was Director of the Mozarteum from 1917. But his publication on Giuseppe Affligio was the first in recent times. He always agrees with the official story of Mozart but provides many useful pieces of information. Together with Max Reinhardt Paumgartner was one of the co-founders of the Salzburg Music Festival). 

2. Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians has an article on Affligio.

3. See also long article refering to Affligio in Herman Abert’s biography ‘Mozart’ between pages 85 onwards plus many references to correspodence of Leopold Mozart.

4. Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart first meeting with Kaunitz 1762

5. There are transcripts in Vienna of court case against Affligio.  

6. Also see correspondence of Leopold Mozart (1768 etc).