Monday, October 27, 2008

Mozart's Favorite Sister-In-Law, Sophie Weber Haibl: An Eighteenth Century Woman

Letters of an Eighteenth Century Woman by Marti Burger

I bid you a most cordial welcome, meine lieben Gaeste, and am particularly glad that you came to call on me.
Do make yourselves quite at home and sit down here in the parlor with me.
Ach, might I serve you some of our hot, aromatic Viennese Kaffee?
And how about a Kuchen on the side?
Please tarry here awhile and firstly, permit me to introduce myself to you.
My name is Sophie Haibl, nee Weber, the sister-in-law of my dear Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, my beloved sister, Constanze's, husband.
The following letters are the result of my participation in a Mozart Salon which is now closed.

I was born in the year of our Lord 1763 in the month of October in Zell im Wiesenthal, in the Black Forest of the German lands, the youngest child of Fridolin and Caecilia Weber, nee Stamm, and grew up in Mannheim with my three elder sisters, Josefa, Aloysia, Constanze, and my late brother, Johann.
Constanze and I were separated in age by a little over one year and were lifelong best friends.
My beloved father was by trade a bass singer, prompter, and music copyist at the court theater.
When our Elector inherited the Electorship of Bavaria, our family and all the court moved to the capital town of Munich, where we resided but a little over one year.
We followed Aloysia's blossoming singing career to Vienna, where we set up house.
Soon thereafter, my dear father departed this earth, and my mother turned our apartment on the Petersplatz into a boarding house to make ends meet.
Thereupon, my dear sister, Constanze, was espoused to Mozart.
I was the only one of my sisters present at Constanze's wedding to Mozart.
I was engaged at the Burgtheater for the 1780-81 season, and made my debut as Roeschen in the rustic comedy "Der Bettler" by Johann Christian Bock.
I was close to my dear brother-in-law, Mozart.
As he lay dying, Constanze, Mozart's doctor, Closset, and I were the only ones present, and I held him in my arms as he died.
In later years, all my sisters having long since married, my mother and I had lodgings in the suburb of Wieden.
Then in 1793, my dear mother was called to the Lord and I was alone.
Thirteen years later in 1807, aged three-and-forty years, I married my beloved husband, Jakob Haibl (1762-1826), a comic actor, tenor, and composer with Schikaneder's company at the Freihaus-Theater in Vienna.
My dear spouse's most successful work was the Singspiel "Der Tirole Wastel" (text by Schikaneder) which, between 1796 and 1801, received no fewer than 118 performances at the Freihaus-Theater alone.
After the death of my husband's first wife, Katharina, in 1806, he accepted the post of choimaster of Djakovar Cathedral in Bohemia.
In 1825, I received a dispatch from Salzburg from Constanze's second husband, Baron Georg Nikolaus von Nissen.
He was then penning the first extensive biography of my late brother-in-law, Mozart, and requested my detailed recollections of this great man of unsurpassed musical genius.
I took quill to paper and recounted to him the manner of Mozart's death, among many personal remembrances.
My beloved Jakob passed away in 1826--on the very same day as Constanze's husband, Nissen.
I took the coach to Salzburg and lived out my many remaining years with my dear sister there in that majestic town on the Salzach River. Constanze was called to the Lord in 1842, and I followed in October, 1846, aged three-and-eighty years.

Meine lieben Gaeste, bitte let me pore you some more hot Kaffee, ja?
Ach, that is better.
I would like you to get to know me and my family, the Webers of Mannheim and Vienna, better.
Here are letters that I wrote in my younger years, when my dear mother was still among us.
Please journey back with me to those long-ago days of my past, and let us relive it together.

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

"ALL ABOUT ME: Mozart's Favorite Sister-In-Law, Sophie Weber Haibl: An Eighteenth Century Woman:
Letters of an Eighteenth Century Woman"
is the exclusive property of Marti Burger, and is not to be reprinted without her written permission.

"ALL ABOUT ME: Mozart's Favorite Sister-In-Law, Sophie Weber Haibl: Letters of an Eighteenth Century Woman"
© 2003-2008 Marti Burger

“Sophie Weber Haibl: Letters of an Eighteenth Century Woman” is dedicated to an unforgettable person—my lifelong close friend and mentor from Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany, later Murnau am Staffelsee, Upper Bavaria, who inspired me to write these letters.

May 19, 1924 – December 25, 2003

Thanks for the memories, Marcel.
You are dearly missed.


My dear Wolfgang,
I take the first sheet of this new paper to thank you for your kind letter, and hope that you are well.
Jakob, Mama, Papa and everyone are well.
Papa Fridolin is as he ever was: quiet and cheerful, uncomplaining in spite of Mama's frequent scoldings. Mama Caecilia is also much the same: so much is complaint and crisis, but I happily bear her complaints and hope to please her. It helps nothing to rise to anger and increase the calamity, and the situation soon quiets down.
Aloysia and the children are taking the waters at Marienbad, and Karl is well.
Josefa alas needs more cloth to fashion her wardrobe; her plumpness ill becomes her, but she minds it not, and is cheerful as ever.
My heart is again unwillingly separated from my dear sister, Constanze.
She and Nissen have left Vienna for Denmark this month past after their stay of six months with us.
Yes, Constanze recounted to me her pleasure in her rose and herb gardens.
You can guess, dear Wolfgang, what preocccupies Constanze and Nissen, as Constanze herself told me before her departure: you, my dear brother.
Indeed, my sister discourses ceaselessly about you with Nissen.
She recalls to him all she can, reliving long-ago memories, as Nissen copies and copies my sister's words to paper.
Nissen's upcoming biography of you occupies him day and night. There is no thought or talk but of you, Wolfgang.
I am so pleased to greet my dear brother and friend and all assembled here, and to have occasion to reminisce of days long past and experiences once shared but ever in our hearts.
Yours affecly,
Your friend and sister,
Sophie, nee Weber

An Upcoming Visit:

Wien, den 6. Juli

My dear Wolfgang,
I hope you are well.
My dear sister and Nissen must be safely back in Denmark this month of July.
Have I told you our great news?
Well, you know, Mama Caecila has spoken for many months of her homesickness and longing for Mannheim, of her wish to see again her surviving family and friends ere it is too late.
And guess what, Wolfgang: Mama has chosen me to be her companion on her journey.
Can you imagine it?
I, who am most comfortable and serene inside my own four walls, sleeping in my own comfy bed with its clean, fresh sheets and fluffy eiderdown comforter, I who want nothing more than a serene, orderly and happy life in my beloved Vienna, going about my daily tasks, accomplishing what I can.
Well, I have to admit that I am getting excited as the departure time quickens. I am not like you, Wolfgang. I keep it inside myself, but I do not travel well.
The jostling and draft of the carriages, the thoughts of highwaymen, the strange beds--all that sits not well with me.
But all the same, an excitement and happy anticipation creeps over me, and I am smiling.
I am thinking of the excitement of peering out the windows of the coaches and watching the world go by. I forget my fear of travel and uncertainty, and am lost in the moment and in the quiet excitement of observing unfamiliar sights and new persons.
Wolfgang, what you must have experienced in all your many travels!
Wolfgang: Mama calls, I must make haste and cannot tarry here too long.
In short, we take the coach from Vienna this Wednesday next and journey towards Salzburg, changing coaches and stopping at inns along the way.
I am so excited to be able to see your hometown once more. Salzburg is indeed magical, and I can hardly wait to experience the special feeling the mountains and fortress, the two charming parts of the town, the river Salzach and bridge gives me.
Wolfgang, I shall see your sister Maria Anna, whom you call "Nannerl" and I am most anxious to embrace her.
Wolfgang, do you have a message that I can relay to your sister?
Next we travel to my hometown of Mannheim.
Of course, it will be wonderful to breathe the air and walk the cobbled streets of my birthplace.
Mama wants to stop off in Ausgburg as well, so please give me a message I can relay to your cousin, Marianne, whom you affectionately call "Baesle", should we be so fortunate as to call on her. I am counting on it that we indeed shall.
Oh, Wolfgang, Mama calls again. I must be off and help prepare the midday meal.
Yours affectionately,
Your friend and sister,
Sophie, nee Weber

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