Tuesday, October 28, 2008

To the English soprano, Nancy Storace

To the English soprano, Nancy Storace:

My dear Mademoiselle Storace,
I am so pleased and honored to make your acquaintance once again.
I could never forget your Susanna. You have a voice of rare beauty, Your character of Susanna is such a delightful one, which you portrayed so convincingly, and made real and come alive.
I could scarce move during the whole performance, so perfect was everything: my dear brother-in law's sublime music, you, Figaro, the Countess and Count, Cerubino, the Gardener--everyone and everything connected to Figaro.
I could not wait to see "Figaro" again and to hear the glorious music whose melodies and verse even now I hum and sing to myself in our house.
Mademoiselle Storace, I trust that I shall again some day have the pleasure of hearing you sing Susanna.
I do so well remember meeting you at my brother-in-law, Herr Mozart's, home, and I am delighted to make your acquaintance once again!
Yours very faithfully,
Sophie, nee Weber

Greetings, Wolfgang!

My dear brother,
I am so joyed to receive your post. You have calmed my fears of the journey, and I thank you greatly for the comfort your words have brought me.
I must make haste, for Mama and I are attending Mass shortly at the Stefansdom. You know how Mama becomes red in the face and chides me when she anticipates that I shall be late.
How Mama detests unpunctuality, as you know so well, dear Wolfgang, and I am as guilty as anyone on this account.
This fault of mine I shall certainly strive to correct, and shall indeed do so.
I am now feeling better about the journey, and excitement builds up within me.
The weather of late has been humid with intermittent rain showers, but still the heat is bearable and not too intense.
So I am hopeful of good weather on the journey, and am taking clothes to meet all occasions of fair or wretched weather.
Mama's presence will make for comfortable discourse with strangers, for you know, dear Wolfgang, many comely persons of your sex act agreeable and cordial with a girl of my tender years, but are not often as they seem--Mama never tires of reminding me of this--so I shall not carry the burden of being alone with them until better acquaintance--and ever then, most probably not without Mama's company.
Wolfgang, I shall make haste to make ready the medicinal remedies you commend to us; I thank you most kindly!
My mind is now not burdened.
I am also so anticipating with joy a meeting with your beloved father, Leopold Mozart; I can scarce contain my excitement musing upon it.
Dear Wolfgang, you have spoken so often of your dear Papa, and I know how much you miss and treasure him and all his council.
I shall with certainty convey to him your words.
Yes, I do so wish to converse with your Baesle in German, Wolfgang, and shall, I trust, have the opportunity ere long.
And it will be so good to embrace your own dear sister, Nannerl!
Mama calls again; I shall be late for Mass.
I do not want to spoil Mama's good humor, which, at present, it still is and, I do hope, remains.
I wish you and my dear sister, Constanze, a most restful and blessed Sunday and remain,
your devoted sister and friend,
Sophie, nee Weber

To Wolfgang:

My dear Wolfgang,
I am dead tired from the long journey, and was just about ready to retire to sleep when I have just now received your post from earlier today:
"I cannot express to you the joy you have given me by
becoming a member of my Salon. We have shared so many
wonderful memories, giggles and jokes--I have missed that so
much. I have not forgotten how you held me in your arms as
I slipped into eternity so many years ago, and how you
stroked my hair to soothe and comfort me."
You bring tears to my eyes, Wolfgang.
I so well remember and cherish the memories, giggles, and jokes we shared and yes, that terrible day when you passed away, far too young, in my arms....my quill is now covered in tears....I shall never get over the memory when I think upon it.
Never should you have died, Wolfgang.
Your death was so undeserved.
Sometimes I cannot fathom what the Almighty has chosen, so unjust and wrong was it.
Your music does and ever shall live, Wolfgang, but here you are again!
My heart is filled with happiness to behold you once more, my dear Wolfgang; I thought that occurrence would never come again.
Your truest sister and friend,
Sophie, nee Weber


My dear Wolfgang,
We have been having an agreeable journey thus far, and Mama and I are again en route in our coach since the forepart of this day, observing the passing scenery.
The click-clack of the carriage wheels lends itself to musings, and I am reflecting as we travel along:
If I should be so fortunate as to survive to a great age, in my dotage I would like nothing better than to live out my remaining years in Salzburg.
The Alps and the baroque beauty of the town give me such a feeling of Geborgenheit and Ruhe (peace).
(Geborgenheit--security, safety, feeling at home and nurtured, as by your parents)
Wolfgang, I cannot imagine, however, living in this place of my heart without the company of my dear sister, Constanze.
Do forgive this silly, unrealistic pipe dream I nurture in my heart: Which is, that Constanze and I be each other's comfort and mainstay in our dotage.
Oh, my romantic nature.............
Wolfgang, you know of the impractical disposition I possess, which I often have to struggle against ere it gains the upper hand.
Sometimes, I am such a silly goose--haha!
The romantic verses of "The Highwaymen" run through my mind:

"The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon clondy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.....
Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair....."

Postscript: When I reminisced about Maestro Haydn, I quite forgot to mention how solicitous of me he has been. Herr Haydn has such good humor and so often addresses me as "Mein liebes Fraeulein (my dear Miss).
He has thus put me so much at my ease, making me almost forget what a great man he is--so natural and unceremoniously he comports himself.
Dear Wolfgang, kindly convey to Mademoiselle Storace that Herr Haydn spoke most affectionately of her home country of England, and of how civilized and most courteous her countrymen are.
Well, back to the present time, and the dusk and encroaching darkness I can see through our coach's small windows.
My dear Wolfgang, I am again lulled to sleep by the soft click-clack of the carriage wheels.
I am smiling and thinking with pleasure of my upcoming reunion in Salzburg with your dear sister, Nannerl, and your beloved Papa, Leopold.
Good night all.
I remain most affectionately
Your true sister and friend,
Sophie, nee Weber

We have this day departed Vienna:

My dear Wolfgang,
The journey is thus far proceeding well and without complications.
Wolfgang, you are so right!
The roads and coaches have vastly improved since my childhood. I even briefly fell asleep as nightfall crept upon us.
It is a delight to see the green fields and countryside go by, and see the yeomen working the fields and occasionally the countryfolk scurrying about on their business.
Our coach was held up for well neigh one hour because the sheep and cows were in no hurry to finish crossing the road.
We share our coach this first night with elderly Fraeulein Schaefer from Salzburg and Herr Meinke from Prussia.
Herr Meinke is around thirty years of age, short and fairly stoutly built with piercing sea-blue eyes, dark blond hair with a slightly visible bare circle in back, and a nose not unlike your mother's family.
Herr Meinke pleased me much, and I blushed.
But my pleasure in his company was short-lived, since Mama soon after inquired after his wife in Pomerania, which he alas confirmed.
Still, the two continue as our traveling companions, at least as far as Salzburg.
We made polite and pleasant discourse and have stopped the night at a comfortable inn, "Zu den Drei Groschen" near Melk.
I am happy to convey that Mama and I are most fortunate to have a room completely to ourselves!
But, I must confess, it is so unfamiliar and strange to be sharing a bed with Mama!
I have been quite spoiled these last years.
My dear sister, Constanze, and I had to share a bed during my childhood, but upon Josefa's marriage, both Constanze and I were fortunate to subsequently each have a bed of our own.
Wolfgang, the name of our inn this night: "Zu den Drei Groschen" is pleasing and melodious to my ear.
Would not it be a fine title for an opera?
"Die Drei Groschen Oper" (The Three Penny Opera)......yes, it has a pleasing ring it it.
Ever yours most affectionately,
Your sister and friend,
Sophie, nee Weber

Salzburg Bound, and a Meeting with Papa Haydn:

My dear Wolfgang,
Please convey to my dear sister, Constance, my warmest greetings upon her return from Baden-Baden!
We are again on our way towards Salzburg, our coach companions being Fraelein Schaefer and Herr Meinke.
(See my second letter, which will be forthcoming, for details on these two).
The soft clatter of the wheels and the horses' hooves have put most of us to sleep......Herr Meinke's loud snoring renders it impossible for me to fall asleep. I believe that a bumblebee or another insect shall fly into his gaping mouth and startle him into waking--hahaha. Mama is fidgeting and Fraeulein Schaefer is sleeping soundly. I close my eyes and think happily about my upcoming meeting with your dear Papa and sister, Nannerl, in Salzburg.
I have brought along some of your music to play for them, Wolfgang, and the score of "The Creation" by your beloved friend and mentor, Josef Haydn.
I hope to sing some arias from it to your Papa and sister.
Wolfgang, I never had the chance to tell you of my first meeting with Maestro Haydn. Let me please do so now........
I heard Mama tell it that Herr Haydn was searching for singers to fill the new chorus which plays in the Redoutensaal, and I took it upon myself to search out the Maestro and try my luck. Well, Wolfgang, Mama was feeling poorly, so I ventured out on my own and took the carriage as far as Herr Haydn's house not far from us in the Innenstadt (inner city).
As I knocked at the door, I could feel my heart pounding, and Herr Haydn's manservant took me to the music room where Herr Haydn sat at the pianoforte. He arose and greeted me. Herr Haydn is smaller than I had thought, with stooped posture and a kindly, tired and weary countenance.
He bade me sing an aria of his choosing, which I so did. "Very fine, Fraelein Weber", the maestro praised. "Pray tell, Kennen Sie (do you know, are you acquainted with) my work "The Creation?"
"Ja", I answered.
"Gut", Herr Haydn replied. Our soprano, Fraeulein von Mosetig, was taken ill with fever at the dress researsal this day. Glad you know my work. You have the voice for it. You shall sing her arias then....Oh, the time....I have an engagement at the home of Count Orsini-Rosenberg. I must leave forthwith. Well, never mind........ You know (Sie kennen) the parts. Well, be at the Redoutensaal for the performance tomorrow at nineteen hours sharp, and wear a dress frock. I shall see you then."
I curtsied deeply, and the Maestro bowed. As I straightened myself up, I extended my hand, which Herr Haydn kissed.
"Fraeulein Weber, I miss deeply your late brother-in-law. How I miss his company and friendship. He is the finest composer and musician who ever walked this earth."
I saw myself out, my mind in a trance. Oh Sophie, I thought in despair, you coward! How could you!
I was acquainted with Herr Haydn's great work "The Creation", having heard it in concert on several occasions. But I had never sung it before! Never even one note of it! Oh, how could I have deceived the Maestro like that.
Well, dear brother, I was going to try. I had a wicked gleam in my eye just the same. Fortunately, Papa had an enormous collection of manuscripts filed away, and I knew that "The Creation" was among them. I dug it out, and heated pots of steaming, hot coffee, and went to work. Practically the night away I played on the pianoforte and sung over and over my arias.
I knew that I didn't have to sing from memory, that I would have the score at the performance to help me.
The next evening arrived, and there I was.
The Redoutensaal gleamed in all its Rococco splendor and the giant chandelier on the ceiling sparkled and glistened, mirroring the festively dressed concert goers. In the sea of faces in the audience, I saw Mama and Josefa and other kin. Wolfgang, I did it; I did it! The concert and my arias went well, though at first my legs were in an involutarily state of trembling.
I soon lost my stage fright, and the trembling ceased. Well, Wolfgang, that was the first time I worked with Herr Haydn, who conducted that concert and whom I had the pleasure to work with several times since. Now, I am drowsy, lulled to sleep by that blissful memory.....
Ever your most affectionate sister and friend,
Sophie, nee Weber

Papa Haydn:

My dear Mademoiselle Storace,
I have heard of it from my brother-in-law, Herr Mozart and from my Mama that you sang the London premiere of his oratorio, "The Seasons".
Herr Mozart told me then of your remarkable voice, and I so wish I could have heard you sing it!
Among Herr Haydn's oratorios, "The Seasons" and "The Creation" are closest to my heart.
Mademoiselle Storace, I told you presently how I, being but an amateur songbird--haha--, unlike yourself, came to sing the first time with Herr Haydn.
Was this not amusing, Miss Storace?
Think upon it: I spoke my mother tongue, German, with Herr Haydn, but any of your countrymen could easily have made the same error as I did:
Herr Haydn inquired of me, "Kennen Sie 'die Schoepfung'?" (Do you know "The Creation"?)
"Kennen" is a German verb which means "to know, to be acquainted with".
One can take "to know" to mean that having heard the work in performance, I am acquainted with it.
I knew not that this time, however, Herr Haydn meant by "kennen": Do you know my work?=Have you sung my work?"
So I replied "ja" in the affirmative, having heard it performed sometime hence, and Herr Haydn took it to mean that I had performed it--amusing, is it not!
I shall never forget that experience of first having sung in performance with Herr Haydn--something I had never sung before!
Mademoiselle Storace, I would love so much to hear you sing!
Yours very faithfully,
Sophie, nee Weber

Siezenheim and Schloss Klessheim:

My dearest Constanze and Wolfgang,
A thunderstorm has suddenly erupted, and I am confined to our comfy room at the inn.
So I shall now write a few lines about the last part of our journey.
Mama scolds me that as soon as the skies clear, I must be off to the apothecary--haha.
You know, dear friend and brother, that if Mama is feeling well enough to complain, she cannot be that ill; is it not so?
When we were but two hours from the city gates of Salzburg, we happened upon a small village called Siezenheim. The horses were tired, and one limped troublesomely, so we alighted from our coach and supped at the tavern there.
Can you not imagine the irony of supping at the village tavern on Wienerschzitzel mit Zitronensosse--far from Vienna!
Since we had to fetch a new horse which took some hours, after dining we all took a constitutional as far as the nearby Castle Klessheim. The promenade was pleasant and the air was still cool and fresh. The green fields were so soothing to my eyes after such a long confinement in the coach, and I could at last stretch and move my legs to my heart's contentment. Only elderly Fraeulein Schaefer, who is a native of these parts, remained at the tavern.
The castle of Klessheim, built before Herr Bach's and Herr Haendel's era, is most stately and impressive, and is so finely situated, I could but marvel at its opulence.
Constanze and Wolfgang, I have obtained at the castle these portraits of our environs there, which I am enclosing herewith:
Land Salzburg - Kultur
Wals Siezenheim im SalzburgerLand, Salzburg
Then off in the carriage in the direction of Salzburg we went.
As we entered the town gates, my heart skipped a beat. I could scarce believe that we are at last come to this place of my heart!
We thereapon took the carriage as far as the Domplatz.
So here we are arrived in Salzburg at last!
And Mama calls again; the storm has at present lifted.
Yours most affectionately,
Your true sister and friend,
Sophie, nee Weber

We Are Come To Salzburg!

My dearest Constanze and Wolfgang,
We are come! We are come to Salzburg at last!
Mama is feeling poorly, and I must make haste to fetch her a Kurmittel (remedy) from the apothecary.
I cannot tarry at my desk here at the inn, alas.
Our inn is called "Die Zwei Turteltauben" (the two turtledoves) and is only steps from the Domplatz.
I cannot believe how secure and free it is to be able to walk around here unchaperoned, such a feeling of safety is apparent.
We shall not need a carriage here, Constanze and Wolfgang. Everywhere, everywhere can we go on foot, also to your dear Papa's house in the Hannibalplatz. I feel so free..........
I am so very happy to be back in your birthplace, dear Wolfgang, to breathe the air and absorb the atmosphere of this charming, regal town.
I shall write more this night.
I wish you both a most pleasant day.
Ever yours most affectionately,
Your sister and friend,
Sophie, nee Weber

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