Operas of Mozart

Course No. 780
Professor Robert Greenberg, Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances
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Course No. 780
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Course Overview

By December 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had written the defining compositions in every available musical genre of his time: symphony, chamber music, masses, and—above all—opera. Opera was the prestige genre of the time, and Mozart loved it dearly and counted on it heavily for personal, professional, artistic, and financial reasons. Just the thought of opera, as Mozart wrote, made him "beside myself at once."

The world of the operatic stage spoke deeply to his primal instinct for play, his taste for fantasy, and his restless creative imagination.

Mozart's operas vie with each other to be considered among the greatest achievements of human artistic striving: Idomeneo, The Abduction from the Harem, The Marriage of Figaro, Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute.

On September 30, 1791, the last of his masterpieces, The Magic Flute, had premiered in Vienna. Ten weeks later, on December 5, 1791, at the age of 35—when most of us are still hoping for one great accomplishment in our lives—Mozart was dead.

What Did Mozart Do? And How Did He Do It?

In this course with Professor Robert Greenberg, we are summoned to understand more fully the height of Mozart's operatic achievement by analyzing two masterpieces closely. The course also invites us to fathom the enigma of Mozart's meteoric genius by studying his career and development.

Professor Greenberg is not an idolator—he reminds us that Mozart was a man, a human, working to make a name and a living. Professor Greenberg shows that Mozart was an "irreverent revolutionary" who did not worship the past. Accordingly, says Professor Greenberg, "This course is somewhat different from what you might expect. It brings Mozart's art refreshingly down to earth. It does not trivialize opera, nor does it put it on a pedestal."

The structure of the course is somewhat unusual. The 24 lectures are in three parts of eight lectures each. The first and third parts concentrate your attention on two works of surpassing beauty and accomplishment, Così fan tutte and The Magic Flute.

The middle eight lectures of the course study Mozart's early life and development from the first opera he wrote (when he was 11 years old) to Don Giovanni, completed when he was 31.

A Brief Tour of the Course: A Genius in Three Acts

PART I: Così fan tutte

In his early years in Vienna (1781–1785), Mozart enjoyed considerable success as a composer and performer. By 1785, when he was 29, he was among the highest-paid musicians in Europe, and he and his wife Constanze lived very well.

From 1786 onwards, however, he received fewer commissions and opportunities to perform. This was in part because he fell out of favor with any number of Viennese aristocrats as a result of the pointed satire in The Marriage of Figaro of 1786 and partly because of a war with the Ottoman Empire that by 1788 brought austerity to Vienna.

In 1789, Mozart and master librettist Lorenzo da Ponte (a Jewish-born, Italian ex-priest) wrote Così fan tutte (All Women Behave Like This). Imperial court composer Antonio Salieri had rejected this project because the libretto dealt with sexual infidelity. By then, both Wolfgang and Constanze had been coping for some time with illness, financial anxieties, family tragedy, and distrust and strife within their marriage.

Così fan tutte is one of three operas—the others are The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni—that Mozart wrote with da Ponte. Their collaboration can rightly be considered one of the greatest in the history of opera. Così is a masterpiece of comic opera—opera buffa—and this study of it will establish an operatic vocabulary with which to measure and study Mozart's other operas.

PART II: Early Life, Singspiel, and Mastery of the Form

Mozart had a lifelong love of the opera, having written his first opera-like composition by the age of 11. A few weeks after that he composed the music for his first opera, Apollo et Hyacinthus.

The operatic genre favored by the aristocracy was a type of opera called "heroic" or "serious" opera (opera seria). In 1780, Mozart, then 24, received a commission from Munich to write the opera seria Idomeneo, rè di Creta, based on a character from Homeric myth.

Idomeneo premiered on January 29, 1781. It is generally considered the greatest opera seria ever written. Its dramatic momentum sweeps away the traditional rituals of opera seria; the characters are given depth and substance that transcend their archetypes, and Mozart's compositional technique reaches an unprecedented level of mastery.

In 1781, Mozart's unhappiness in the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg brought about his dismissal.

His musical genius quickly found an appreciative audience in the Habsburg capital of Vienna, where he was invited to write an opera for the new Imperial German Theater.

The result was The Abduction from the Harem of 1782. It was, in Mozart's lifetime, his most popular work.

After The Abduction, Mozart did not complete and produce another opera until 1786—The Marriage of Figaro. Lorenzo da Ponte wrote the libretto for what would be his and Mozart's first and greatest masterwork.

The next year, Mozart collaborated again with da Ponte, and Don Giovanni was the result. The libretto recounts the ancient morality tale of Don Juan, whose lack of conscience and restraint doom him.

You hear how Mozart imbued Don Giovanni with an extraordinary degree of momentum and dramatic interaction, all the while using the orchestra to knit together and give context to the vocal parts. The second act finale is one of the greatest conclusions in all of opera.

PART III: The Magic Flute

In 1791, Mozart and fellow Mason Emanuel Schikaneder collaborated on a singspiel that premiered on September 30, 1791.

The Magic Flute was immensely popular, and history has shown it to be one of the most successful operas ever written.

Its libretto, on the surface, is a farrago of obscure Masonic lore that has been injected into a standard boy-meets-girl fairy tale plot, set against a faux-Egyptian background, and relieved by the low-comedy antics of a character resembling an 18th-century Austrian Big Bird.

But when Mozart took hold of the material, the result was something transcendent, not just because the music was superb but because Mozart used it to illustrate character, to reveal emotion, to propel action, and to weave a world on stage as fully realized and fascinatingly imagined as anything in the dramatic repertoire.

Ironically, with money finally coming in, Mozart died just 10 weeks after The Magic Flute's premiere.

Works you'll hear in the lectures are excerpted from:

Apollo et Hyacinthus, K. 38 (1767)
Bastien und Bastienne, K. 50 [K. 46b] (1768)
La finta semplice, K. 51 [K 46a] (1769)
Lucio Silla, K. 135 (1772)
La finta giardiniera, K. 196 (1775)
Il rè pastore, K. 208 (1775)
Idomeneo, rè di Creta, K. 366 (1781)
The Abduction from the Harem, K. 384 (1782)
The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492 (1786)
Don Giovanni, K. 527 (1787)
Così fan tutte, K. 588 (1789)
The Magic Flute, K. 620 (1791)

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24 lectures
 |  Average 45 minutes each
  • 1
    1789
    In his early years in Vienna (1781–85), Mozart enjoyed considerable success as a composer and performer. By 1785 he was among the best-paid musicians in Europe and he and his wife Constanze lived high and well. x
  • 2
    Così fan tutte, Part One
    In his early years in Vienna (1781–85), Mozart enjoyed considerable success as a composer and performer. By 1785 he was among the best-paid musicians in Europe and he and his wife Constanze lived high and well. x
  • 3
    Così fan tutte, Part Two
    From 1786 on, however, his income began to drop. There were fewer commissions, fewer opportunities for performing, and less demand for his music. He had fallen out of favor with Viennese aristocrats due to the pointed satire of The Marriage of Figaro of 1786, and war with the Ottoman Empire forced austerity measures in Vienna. x
  • 4
    Così fan tutte, Part Three
    From 1786 on, however, his income began to drop. There were fewer commissions, fewer opportunities for performing, and less demand for his music. He had fallen out of favor with Viennese aristocrats due to the pointed satire of The Marriage of Figaro of 1786, and war with the Ottoman Empire forced austerity measures in Vienna. x
  • 5
    Così fan tutte, Part Four
    In 1789, Mozart and librettist Lorenzo da Ponte began work on Così fan tutte (All Women Behave Like This)—a project that Imperial court composer Antonio Salieri had rejected due to the libretto's scandalous theme of sexual infidelity. By then, both Wolfgang and Constanze had been coping with illness, financial anxieties, family tragedy, and distrust and strife in their marriage. x
  • 6
    Così fan tutte, Part Five
    In 1789, Mozart and librettist Lorenzo da Ponte began work on Così fan tutte (All Women Behave Like This)—a project that Imperial court composer Antonio Salieri had rejected due to the libretto's scandalous theme of sexual infidelity. By then, both Wolfgang and Constanze had been coping with illness, financial anxieties, family tragedy, and distrust and strife in their marriage. x
  • 7
    Così fan tutte, Part Six
    Was Mozart drawn to a work on the difficulties in relations between the sexes because it mirrored his personal life? The breathtaking virtuosity with which he uses music to show character, explore feelings, and move dramatic action speaks for itself. Così also marked the last of the three superb operas on which Mozart worked with gifted collaborator Da Ponte. x
  • 8
    Così fan tutte, Part Seven
    Was Mozart drawn to a work on the difficulties in relations between the sexes because it mirrored his personal life? The breathtaking virtuosity with which he uses music to show character, explore feelings, and move dramatic action speaks for itself. Così also marked the last of the three superb operas on which Mozart worked with gifted collaborator Da Ponte. x
  • 9
    The First Works
    Mozart had a life-long love of opera, having written his first operalike composition at age 10. By age 11 he composed the music for his first opera, Apollo et Hyacinthus. In 1768 Emperor Joseph II commissioned him to write La finta semplice (The Pretended Simpleton); after that, he wrote Bastien und Bastienne, a charming rustic singspiel—his first thoroughly "Mozartean" work for the operatic stage. These three early and very different operas reflect Mozart's ability to absorb and synthesize the myriad musical influences to which he was exposed on his trips across Europe. x
  • 10
    The Italian Apprenticeship
    In Mozart's day the aristocracy favored a type of opera called "heroic" or "serious" opera (opera seria). Between 1769 and 1773, Mozart and his father took three trips to Italy, which produced three "serious" operas: Mitridate, rè di Ponte (1770), Ascanio in Alba (1771), and Lucio Silla (1772). Each one reflects Mozart's development as a composer and dramatist, and Mozart and his father's desire to curry favor with the Italian aristocracy. x
  • 11
    The Professional, Part One
    By age 16, Mozart was a full-fledged opera composer whose works ranked with the very best operas of his day. Between Lucio Silla (1772) and Idomeneo (1781), Mozart continued to develop his skills. These years included the production of the comic opera, La finta giardiniera (The Pretended Garden Maid, 1775), which despite its inferior libretto signaled to Mozart's contemporaries his emergence as a composer with superior talent. x
  • 12
    The Professional, Part Two
    For four years after Il rè pastore (1775) Mozart received no commissions to write operas. Finally in 1780, Mozart received a commission from Munich to write the opera seria Idomeneo, rè di Creta, based on a Homeric myth. This opera, too radical to enjoy popularity in Mozart's day, is now recognized as the greatest "heroic" opera. x
  • 13
    Vienna and Abduction
    In 1781, Mozart was dismissed from the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg. He became a freelance composer in a society where those who wrote music professionally were treated as artisans in the service of aristocrats. His musical genius, however, quickly found an appreciative audience in Vienna, where he was invited to write an opera for the new Imperial German Theater. The result was The Abduction from the Harem of 1782. x
  • 14
    Salieri, Da Ponte and The Marriage of Figaro
    In his first years in Vienna, Mozart enjoyed success as both a performer and composer. But breaking into the charmed circle of favored opera composers was no easy thing. After The Abduction, Mozart did not complete and produce another opera until 1786—The Marriage of Figaro, which marks Mozart's mastery of the genre. x
  • 15
    Don Giovanni, Part One
    Mozart was invited to compose an opera for production in Bohemia in 1787. Again Mozart collaborated with Da Ponte, and Don Giovanni was the result. Da Ponte's libretto recounts the ancient morality tale of Don Juan, whose lack of conscience proves fatal to his life and his soul. Don Giovanni was praised at its premiere in Prague but criticized in Vienna a year later. x
  • 16
    Don Giovanni, Part Two
    In Lecture 16 we reach the Act II finale of Don Giovanni. We hear how Mozart has mastered an array of compositional and dramatic challenges, imbuing his music with momentum and dramatic interaction, while using the orchestra to knit together and give context to the vocal parts. The second act finale is an amazing display of musical, dramatic, and psychological mastery. x
  • 17
    Mozart, Masonry and The Magic Flute
    The Magic Flute (1791) quickly proved itself to be one of the most successful operas ever written. Inspired by Oriental fairy tales and imbued with Masonic lore and imagery, it is a love story, a feminist tract, and a test-and-quest coming-of-age tale. Whatever weaknesses exist in the libretto are utterly transcended by Mozart's musical genius. Ironically, with money finally coming in, Mozart died just three weeks after The Magic Flute debut. x
  • 18
    The Magic Flute, Part Two
    The Magic Flute (1791) quickly proved itself to be one of the most successful operas ever written. Inspired by Oriental fairy tales and imbued with Masonic lore and imagery, it is a love story, a feminist tract, and a test-and-quest coming-of-age tale. Whatever weaknesses exist in the libretto are utterly transcended by Mozart's musical genius. Ironically, with money finally coming in, Mozart died just three weeks after The Magic Flute debut. x
  • 19
    The Magic Flute, Part Three
    The Magic Flute (1791) quickly proved itself to be one of the most successful operas ever written. Inspired by Oriental fairy tales and imbued with Masonic lore and imagery, it is a love story, a feminist tract, and a test-and-quest coming-of-age tale. Whatever weaknesses exist in the libretto are utterly transcended by Mozart's musical genius. Ironically, with money finally coming in, Mozart died just three weeks after The Magic Flute debut. x
  • 20
    The Magic Flute, Part Four
    The Magic Flute (1791) quickly proved itself to be one of the most successful operas ever written. Inspired by Oriental fairy tales and imbued with Masonic lore and imagery, it is a love story, a feminist tract, and a test-and-quest coming-of-age tale. Whatever weaknesses exist in the libretto are utterly transcended by Mozart's musical genius. Ironically, with money finally coming in, Mozart died just three weeks after The Magic Flute debut. x
  • 21
    The Magic Flute, Part Five
    The Magic Flute (1791) quickly proved itself to be one of the most successful operas ever written. Inspired by Oriental fairy tales and imbued with Masonic lore and imagery, it is a love story, a feminist tract, and a test-and-quest coming-of-age tale. Whatever weaknesses exist in the libretto are utterly transcended by Mozart's musical genius. Ironically, with money finally coming in, Mozart died just three weeks after The Magic Flute debut. x
  • 22
    The Magic Flute, Part Six
    The Magic Flute (1791) quickly proved itself to be one of the most successful operas ever written. Inspired by Oriental fairy tales and imbued with Masonic lore and imagery, it is a love story, a feminist tract, and a test-and-quest coming-of-age tale. Whatever weaknesses exist in the libretto are utterly transcended by Mozart's musical genius. Ironically, with money finally coming in, Mozart died just three weeks after The Magic Flute debut. x
  • 23
    The Magic Flute, Part Seven
    The Magic Flute (1791) quickly proved itself to be one of the most successful operas ever written. Inspired by Oriental fairy tales and imbued with Masonic lore and imagery, it is a love story, a feminist tract, and a test-and-quest coming-of-age tale. Whatever weaknesses exist in the libretto are utterly transcended by Mozart's musical genius. Ironically, with money finally coming in, Mozart died just three weeks after The Magic Flute debut. x
  • 24
    The Magic Flute, Part Eight
    The Magic Flute (1791) quickly proved itself to be one of the most successful operas ever written. Inspired by Oriental fairy tales and imbued with Masonic lore and imagery, it is a love story, a feminist tract, and a test-and-quest coming-of-age tale. Whatever weaknesses exist in the libretto are utterly transcended by Mozart's musical genius. Ironically, with money finally coming in, Mozart died just three weeks after The Magic Flute debut. x

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Your professor

Robert Greenberg

About Your Professor

Robert Greenberg, Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances
Dr. Robert Greenberg is Music Historian-in-Residence with San Francisco Performances. A graduate of Princeton University, Professor Greenberg holds a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of California, Berkeley. He has seen his compositions—which include more than 45 works for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles—performed all over the world, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles,...
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Reviews

Operas of Mozart is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 47.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hilarious! I have bought and listened to many of professor Greenberg's CD's and have consistently enjoyed his scholarly and entertaining approach, but I found this one particularly funny. While listening in the car to his description of the events that took place in Cosi Fan Tutti, admittedly already quite humorous, I was laughing so hard I may have temporarily been a driving hazard. I highly recommend this product!
Date published: 2017-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Operas of Mozart The presenter gives an amazing amount of background information that helps us to understand the opera content and music.
Date published: 2017-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exactly what we needed I bought this download specifically for the Don Giovanni lectures -- we were making a daylong drive to Santa Fe, and it seemed like a good way to get the most out of our tickets to Don G, which my wife had never seen. They were great -- very entertaining, and really enhanced our enjoyment of the performance. I'm not sure if/when I will listen to the rest of the course, but it's already given us our money's worth.
Date published: 2016-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from wonderful course Like all the Greenberg courses I have heard, this one is inspirational as well as informative. He would get enthusiastic interest from a rock!
Date published: 2016-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Operas of Mozart An excellent course with a detailed review of some of Mozart's most important operas combined with a detailed Mozart family history context. Professor Robert Greenberg presentation is interesting and full of amusing anecdotes on the life and times of Mozart.
Date published: 2016-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well worth the time and money I am wild about Mozart, and I adore Professor Greenberg, so you know I am gong to give this corurse a high rating. I enjoy Greenberg's humor (Wolfie Mozart, eschew to chew, studliness, road kill)), and I found great heaps of useful information in his comments on particular operas. I was impressedd by the number of letters and contemporary reviews he quoted; it is surprising how many critics didn't like what Mozart had done! One thing I found very helpful: i acquired an inexpensive set of the Mozart operas from Telarc, and after I finished the last lesson, I went back, relistened to the lessons on particular operas, read the guidebook, and then listened to the entire opera. Greenberg's coverage of the Magic Flute is particularly detailed, and the boys' trio is special. I wish (I have made this complaint about other music courses), that Breenberg could tell us who the performers are. I also have a complaint about the low volume of the recordings: one has to keep raising and lowering the volume, which is a nuisance. In sum, I found this set to be well worth the time and money I spent on it.
Date published: 2016-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This Course Will Make You a Mozart anp Opera Lover audio download version The 24 lectures are divided into three, eight lecture sections, bookended by examining two of Mozart's great operas in detail. Both "Cosi Fan Tutte" and "The Magic Flute" receive 8 lectures each, giving professor Greenberg ample time delve into the details of each opera and to also play almost all of the music. The middle 8 lectures are devoted to two lectures on "Don Giovanni", a one lecture nod to "The Marriage of Figaro" and 5 others that cover Mozart's musical development in writing operas, a bit of history and brief selections from Mozart's other, lesser-known operas. Going in I knew little about Cosi, having only seen it once and really never having having listened to it with any thought. Really I thought it was pretty silly, but Dr. Greenberg's detailed explanations enabled me to appreciate this music with new and grateful ears. On the other end of the spectrum, "The Magic Flute" was the first opera I ever saw performed and I have probably seen it again close to a dozen times and own at least two recordings. Therefore ±I thought that I knew it quite well. I was happily surprise to find that I had missed much of the reasons for the plot, due to my largely ignorance of Masons and Masonic rites. Thank you Dr. Greenberg. On a not so upbeat note, I found professor Greenberg's decision to translate the German of the Magic Flute into vernacular English to be off putting after a while. Even after his explanation as to the fact that it was in the language of the day so he would provide a very loose translation to accommodate the intent of the German. After about the fifth time that he referred to Tamino as"dude", I was ready for him to stop. But he did not. Mostly I like and appreciate Greenberg's stick, but this was over the top, even for me Otherwise, highly recommended.
Date published: 2016-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof Greenberg's courses are always good. His knowledge of the subject is quite amazing and his delivery both informative and entertaining.
Date published: 2016-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greenberg as His Best! In this series of 24 lectures, Professor Robert Greenberg energetically covers all of Mozart’s opera compositions and discusses three of the best in very detailed fashion. As usual, he covers both historical and biographical aspects as well as musical. His lively lectures are informative, at times almost excessively so. Given the outstanding quality of Mozart’s works, this is an excellent series for those who do not initially know much about opera or even particularly care about it.
Date published: 2016-01-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mozart Operas I am a big fan of Prof. Greenberg, especially his most analytical efforts such as the Beethoven Symphonies, Piano Sonatas and String Quartets, Bach and the High Baroque and the like. I am disappointed in the operas of Verdi, Wagner and Mozart primarily because of the approach he takes, i.e., I think his voice acting of the texts is annoying, especially to people who mostly know the operas but want to know more about the internal details of their construction - harmonics, key relationships, the subtleties of the music supporting the text, etc.
Date published: 2016-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Music, but Overly Dramatic Presentation The content was nice, the music great, but the lecturer a bit over the top. I understand it's a dry subject, and some excitement is necessary from the presenter, but I felt he was a bit obnoxious and boisterously loud in many cases, and that distracted from my overall enjoyment. I still recommend the course, as Mozart is an interesting composer, and he composed many of the best operas, all of which are covered here to some degree.
Date published: 2015-12-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Very disappointing! I have many of Mr Greenberg's courses, both in audio and DVD versions, but this is the weakest of all of them. Though it's titled "The Operas of Mozart," it altogether omits what IMHO is the finest of them all: The Marriage of Figaro. The teacher gives the rather weak explanation that he has already covering this in another Teachco course. SO WHAT? I don't have that course, and after this experience I'm not likely to buy it. By contrast, he devotes a significant chunk of the course to The Magic Flute, and he presents that in a "translation" that reads like something rendered in Animal House on a particularly drunken Saturday night. ("Hey, Prince dude!" etc etc.) It wasn't just me -- my wife was equally put off, and in the end we simply quite watching. If I'm not mistaken, we made it through six of the eight Magic Flute lectures, or perhaps it was four out of six. So what this supposed comprehensive survey really amounts to is a truly fine set of lectures on Cosi Fan Tutte and an okay take on Don Giovanni. (Mr Greenberg gets rather slangy in his treatment of the Don as well.) It is also marred by the structure. Perhaps this is a very early Teachco course, but rather than show the English translation simultaneously with the music, Mr Greenberg recites it in advance. Then come the sung lyrics, with a static graphic, very tiresome. I couldn't believe how uninformative the Italian and German could be, hearing only the language, and seeing neither a translation nor the actors on stage. Really, I think you should pass this one up.
Date published: 2015-11-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Survey While I did enjoy the course I don't know that we needed 9 lectures to get through the Magic Flute. It is everyone's favourite, BUT.... I would have preferred maybe 8 on the Flute and the 9th to at least survey the two that were not covered at all. Professor Greenberg is passionate but has Mozart-colored glasses. I understand the genius at play, but perhaps toning down the fan-boy might make things a bit more appealing. Writing off everything as "a product of his time" to "placate the feminists" does not really placate anyone.
Date published: 2015-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Waiting For Operas of Mozart 2 First, a word on Dr. Greenberg's style. The reviewers who hate it are right: It's manic, funny, colloquial, even irreverent. That's the Greenberg shtick. That's what makes him so entertaining on NPR. And that's what makes him a refreshing and enlightening educator. Dr. Greenberg’s courses are the only Great Courses I own where quickly stifled laughter occasionally bursts out of the technical crew. As with most of Dr. Greenberg's courses, I found "Operas of Mozart" a delight. Greenberg points out a host of details that fly by most opera listeners, but which really make the experience that much more enjoyable when you know them. The course covers three operas in depth: Cosi fan tutte, Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute. Several others are given lighter treatment. Greenberg has wisely left The Marriage of Figaro to his lectures on How to Understand and Enjoy Opera, where it is given its proper due. Still others, genuine masterpieces, he acknowledges cannot be given the attention they deserve in this course. Great Courses, take note: We need a sequel! In his enthusiastic delivery, it's true that Greenberg sometimes drops a howler. Aloysia Weber rejected Mozart not in Mannheim, but in Munich. (The Elector's court had moved while Mozart was in Paris.) And it's not exactly accurate to say that Mozart married without his father's consent: Leopold pouted, but he did give his blessing. Perhaps misled by modern geographical borders, Greenberg refers to Mozart as a "foreigner" in Milan, when in fact Lombardy and Austria were in the same country at the time. But these are minor distractions. On the whole, Greenberg is a treasure of facts and insights. If there is a clunker in the content, it is Greenberg's elaborately spun theory that Cosi fan tutte catalogs Mozart's marriage troubles, a notion Greenberg expounds with all the vigor of a Bigfoot believer. Is Cosi autobiographical? Beats me. I have no axe to grind either way. But Greenberg's reasons are unconvincing. In fact, they’re cringe-worthily lame. His theory commits one freshman error after another. First, we'd have to believe that Mozart and not Emperor Joseph chose the material; and second, that Mozart and not da Ponte wrote the libretto. But most of all, we'd have to impose our modern concepts of gender role on a different time. Is the weakness of Cosi's women a smoking gun of Mozartian jealousy and betrayal? Come on. It's not even a slightly steaming slingshot. In Mozart's day it was an article of faith - literally; the Catholic Church taught it - that woman was morally weak by nature, and no woman could resist submitting if wooed arduously enough. This motif infuses opera long before and long after Mozart, was taken for granted in America as late as the 1950s, and survives in some cultures even today. Mozart and da Ponte’s audiences never had the slightest doubt that the girls would give in. The entertainment factor came from watching the boys so foolishly set themselves up for their own humiliation. (Note that the Marriage of Figaro relies 100% on this assumption: Not even the unwilling Susana questions her eventual susceptibility, which was so universally accepted that it needed no explanation.) Finally, to accept the “Constanze Done Me Wrong” thesis of Cosi, we would have to forget that we are dealing with a composer who, as Greenberg himself resoundingly demonstrated in his "Great Masters - Mozart" course, simply kept his composing separate from his private life. Why this one, glaring exception? And in a work whose theme, story, and words were produced by other people? Another distraction - and this is true of all his courses - is Greenberg's choice of recordings. In the 1870s, Richard Wagner argued for and popularized the reinterpretation of Mozart (and Beethoven, Handel, etc.) into a more, well, Wagnerian style. The music was slowed down, sometimes drastically, and the volume inflated in order to accomodate ever larger orchestras, as well as to serve the Romantic era's notion of melody, the idea that every note was to be savored. This movement was so effective that Wagnerian reinterpretations were mistaken for the real thing well into the 1960s and persist to this day. Indeed, many people (Greenberg apparently among that number) prefer Wagner's Mozart over Mozart's Mozart. What this means is that Greenberg favors recordings that will strike many listeners, especially newcomers to classical music, as bombastic, turgid, and plodding. Try to keep step with the sloth-speed tempo of the priest's march in his recording of "The Magic Flute." Even an arthritic bride coming down a flypaper-floored aisle would be signalling the conductor to speed it up. Greenberg’s chosen recording of Don Giovanni in particular would have a lethargic snail shouting "Più mosso, maestro, più mosso!" That's it. That's all the criticism I have, and as you can see it's both nerdy and marginal. Buy this course! Whether you know a lot or a little about music, a lot or a little about Mozart, whether you like opera or hate it, you will enjoy this and learn something. I got it as an audio download, which for me was perfect. I cannot hold with those reviewers who don't care for Dr. Greenberg's irreverence, energy, and mock histrionics. Sorry, but his lecture style is as sassy, innovative and fun as Mozart's own music. Wolferl, I am certain, would approve.
Date published: 2013-06-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointment--don't get the DVD The DVD was disappointing. There were no stage productions, which are essential to opera. Dr. Greenberg read the words of the libretto prior to playing the examples, and it was difficult to know what was being said (in each foreign language), so it lost a lot "in translation." His style was better adapted to the CD. Visually this was poorly presented. It was only given three stars, since it was a basic introduction and left a lot to be desired.
Date published: 2013-04-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too much plot summary, too little music analysis While I thoroughly enjoyed the first two courses I purchased with Professor Greenberg as lecturer ("How to Listen to And Understand Classical Music" and "Bach and the High Baroque"), I found this course extremely disappointing. While I was hoping to learn what makes Mozart's operas so wonderful, upon finishing the course I can honestly say that I understand almost nothing about what sets Mozart's operas apart from those of his contemporaries. While Professor Greenberg routinely says things like "Mozart's finales are far superior to everyone else's," he never played a musical example from ANY other composer, thus leaving the listener to interpret his statement in a vacuum. I was similarly frustrated when Greenberg said "Mozart captures the back and forth of conversation better than any composer in history," and then failed to play any examples in which a composer came up short in this regard. It seems to me that going the entire course without touching on the music of ANY of Mozart’s contemporaries makes it impossible to truly appreciate Mozart’s achievements. Second, I completely agree with JGBaltimore’s review, which states that Greenberg focuses on plot summary to the exclusion of a careful analysis of the music. While, I admit, I now know the plots of Cosi Fan Tutte and The Magic Flute extremely well, I finished the course completely unsatisfied; I could have read Wikipedia if I wanted plot summaries. I wanted to learn about the music, about what makes it great, and Greenberg failed to deliver. He rarely gets into the nuts and bolts of an opera (he says things like “Mozart manipulates key areas beautifully here, but I don’t have time to explain how”), and instead simply reads from the libretti, lecture after lecture. This would be tolerable, I guess, except that he makes a mockery of the art by butchering the libretti through his ridiculous paraphrases. He will, I kid you not, paraphrase a libretto in the following way: Character X: Hey, dude, who’s the gorgeous babe over there? Character Y: Whoa, bro, that babe is, like, TOTALLY AWESOMLY HOT! Yum! I’m honestly not exaggerating. If you purchase this course, you’ll see that Greenberg paraphrases libretti in this way in nearly EVERY lecture. In the “The Magic Flute”, it becomes almost unbearable. (He claims to be keeping the opera “colloquial”, as intended. While there's something to be said for this approach, he takes it to such an extreme that it seems more like a joke than a serious work of art.) Long story short, I found this lecture series almost impossible to listen to. For someone who knows nothing about opera and just wants to get their feet wet, I guess it’s okay. But for any serious Mozart fan, or someone who wants a more scholarly approach to art, I absolutely cannot recommend this course. Greenberg’s "How to Listen to And Understand Classical Music" and "Bach and the High Baroque" are far superior in terms of content and presentation.
Date published: 2012-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly life enriching For those with little patience, this course starts off fast. By the end of the first lecture, we are already into the overture of Cosi Fan Tutte. He spends several lectures with a blow by blow account of the story and music for Cosi, and ends the course with a similar treatment for the Magic Flute. This course would be worth a purchase just for the analysis of these 2 great operas alone. For anyone who has seen an opera, it can be confusing to try to make sense of the story, but after following Prof Greenberg's analysis, it makes perfect sense. Particularly for the Magic Flute, one of the greatest operas of all time, the story becomes confusing if one doesn't understand the masonic rituals and symbolism which runs through the entire opera. In addition, there are many dichotomies, such as masculine vs feminine, sun vs moon, and enlightenment vs ignorance. The only negative one can say is the need to choose which operas to explore, and which to just mention. He spends only a few minutes on Marriage of Figaro, but that is because it is better covered in his full opera course. I would say both this course and the Mozart chamber works can truly change your life and how one appreciates the finer things in life. It is amazing to think how a human being could create music of such beauty. You could also throw the 30 greatest orchestral works in there.
Date published: 2012-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fun Course I think it's a given that Prof. Greenberg is a terrific teacher. I enjoyed his organization and his sense of humor during this course. I don't know much about opera (I've gone to a few, listened to a few, taken TTC's Introduction to Opera course), but I thoroughly enjoyed this course. I especially enjoyed listening to Prof. Greenberg's description of the conversations during Don Giovanni. I would suggest purchasing the Introduction to Opera course because Prof. Greenberg seems to think of it as a prerequisite to this course. In any case, they are both fun courses. If one even has a passing interest in opera, I believe one would enjoy either of these courses. Thanks to Prof. Greenberg and TTC.
Date published: 2012-04-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too much plot, not enough music I'm a huge fan of Professor Greenberg's courses, so I am surprised to find myself rating this with less than 5 stars, but I found him more annoying than funny this time. He spent way too much time acting out the librettos of even minor operas, using "silly voices" that trivialize the very works he's encouraging us to admire. Especially annoying is his raspy-voiced yelling. It's such a relief to finally hear the music itself, not only because it's beautiful, but because it provided a welcome respite from his yelling. He admits that the plots and libretti of many of these operas are silly, so why dwell on them? Tell us how to listen to and appreciate the music!
Date published: 2011-08-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great fun but partly mis-informed Overall great but some mis-leading facts, e.g. not all US Presidents have been Masons as cited. Professor needs to be more careful in checking his facts.
Date published: 2011-08-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course, but incomplete The presentation of the course is up to professor Greenberg's usual standards, and he is still one of my favorite Teaching Company instructors. I've been a Mozart Opera fan long before ordering this course, and I still learned much new insight, especially into the earlier works. However, without purchasing "How to Listen to and Understand Great Opera" first, the course may be somewhat of a letdown, because essential information is not covered and Greenberg directs the audience to the earlier course. For example, Lorenzo da Ponte's (Mozart's greatest librettist) biography is completely skipped over, and so is the background and the first 2 acts of "Marriage of Figaro". In essence, you are almost required to purchase the general Opera course as well, to get the full picture. While there's nothing wrong with that, since most Teaching Company listeners purchase multiple courses, I would have preferred the course expanded to perhaps 32 lectures, even with overlap.
Date published: 2010-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Genius of Mozart If you've listened to and enjoyed Greenberg's "How to Listen to and Understand Opera" course, this set of lectures (along with the "Life and Operas of Verdi" set I have also reviewed) is an absolute must. I you haven't had the pleasure of Prof. Greenberg introducing you to the magical world of opera you could not do better than plunge into this course. If you like Mozart's orchestral music but don't know much about his operas this is an excellent and informative course. And if you know something about opera, and are familiar with Mozart's mature works, then there are many interesting things here about the earlier operas and about Mozart's life. Two highlights (for me) were 7 lectures devoted to 'Cos fan tutte' and an explanation of the Masonic symbolism in The Magic Flute. Greenberg's joy is infectious and his anectodes are a delight.
Date published: 2010-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it I decided to buy this course after listening to Prof. Greenberg's course "How to listen and understand opera." I enjoyed it very much and thought that this course would be just as enjoyable. I was not disappointed. Prof. Greenberg has a unique style of presenting the material. He is very informative, enthusiastic, engaging, yet light and often humorous. It is a real pleasure to listen to him. His ability to pull one into the subject matter is really amazing. I did not listen to Mozart's operas before this course and I am so happy and grateful to the Teaching company and to Prof. Greenberg for many hours of pure joy that I would not have had were it not for this course. I have listened and viewed the operas multiple times and it is always just as enjoyable as the first time. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2010-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly entertaining AND insightful! Dr. Greenberg is highly entertaining as usual as well as highly insightful. His ribald, wry, tongue-in-cheek humor woven into his rapid fire presentations easily pull us along with the story. His use of vocal variety and putting on the roles of the actors of the operas make us “see” it happening while listening to the audio CD version and working jigsaw puzzles at the same time. He sure can paint a great picture and sets the stage with words. The lectures are in-depth in terms of information. What fun to learn about operas I have heard of but never knew anything about! We have thoroughly enjoyed ALL of his courses!
Date published: 2009-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Real Lover of Mozart Nothing helps inspire a listener like a speaker who is inspired. Prof. Greenberg loves Mozart and that love is embodied in every word of his Mozart lectures. Buy them all: Chamber, Operas, Great Masters. Prof. Greenberg provides years of repeated listening pleasure.
Date published: 2009-01-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great, but - Greenberg is entertaining and informative as always. However, this time he gets only four stars due to overly detailed summaries of the plots of the individual operas.
Date published: 2008-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Robert Greenberg is just outstanding!
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor explained operas in a way that an ordinary non-musical person could understand and with humor.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from could not hear the music due to loud vocals of labretto. Would be better to view the actual section of the opera as performed on stage
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bob Greenberg is a national treasure
Date published: 2008-10-17
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