Mozart and His Operas

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Press:Univ of California Pr University of California Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2006)
Publication Date:2006-4
Author Name:Cairns, D.


David Cairns—winner of the Whitbread Biography Award and the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction—has spent his life immersed in Mozart’s music, both as a performer and as a listener. 
This intimate biography sheds new and important light on the composer by placing his operas in the context of his life and his complete musical output.
Mozart's unusual childhood as a musical prodigy touring Europe as a performer from an early age is well known.
But even more remarkable is that the genius grew up to produce works of increasing maturity and originality.
Cairns unravels the many myths surrounding Mozart to reveal the opinionated, passionate, and exceptionally intelligent man behind the legend.Cairns shows that familiarity with the operas can transform our perception of Mozart's art.
He demonstrates that the composer’s approach to composition was that of a consummate dramatist.
Using the operas as his guide, he traces the steady deepening of Mozart's musical style from his beginnings as a child prodigy, through his coming of age with, in Cairns’s opinion, the most Romantic and forward-looking of all Mozart's operas, Idomeneo.
He discusses Mozart’s later genius as displayed in the three comic operas The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte, and in The Magic Flute, the final and greatest triumph of his career.

From the Back Cover

Acclaim for "Berlioz: The Making of an Artist 'Berlioz stands as one of the great biographies of our day, and also one o f the great feats of literary sympathy with an artistic genius, filled with a love, knowledge and understanding of is subject that flame up on every page' Max Loppert, "Financial Times'In David Cairns, Berlioz has found a biographer who shares his sense of scale. 
There is not a dull or redundant page in the whole book' Noel Malcolm, "Sunday Telegraph'David Cairns has a wonderful story to tell and he tells it superbly well .
rich in detail and imbued with imaginative insights that stem from love.
It is also written with an enviable blend of grace and energy' Peter Heyworth, "Observer "Berlioz: Servitude and Greatness'Epic .
will stand as a major monument of the history of classical music and will surely, on its subject, never be surpassed' Alexander Waugh, "Literary Review'One of the masterpieces of modern biography .
a magnificent piece of synthesizing scholarship, fluently readable yet maturely balanced' Rupert Christiansen, "Daily Telegraph'How fortunate Berlioz has been in his latest, perhaps definitive biographer' George Steiner," Observer'A life brilliantly described as an extended adolescence of unceasing emotional turbulence and creative struggle.
a generous view of a man who was always exceptionally generous to others' Robin Blake, "The Independent on Sunday

About the Author

David Cairns has been chief music critic of the Sunday Times and music critic and arts editor of the Spectator. 
He has been Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of California, Davis, and a visiting scholar at the Getty Center in Santa Monica.
His two-volume biography of Berlioz, published by UC Press, is the definitive work on the subject.


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Comment List (Total:6)

  •     Like all successful musical guides, David Cairns' magisterial survey of Mozart's operas weaves in just enough biographical and contextual circumstance to balance the musicological elements. His tone is light, lucid and engaging throughout; he includes enough analysis to engage the reader with some academic appreciation of musical technicalities but not so much as to alienate the musical illiterate who simply loves the operas. My only regretful observation is that his explication of the musical dynamic of key scenes requires the reader to stop and re-listen so frequently in order to appreciate the point being made.Cairns' love and reverence for the music are what emerge above all other considerations; this is no dry narrative. Another attribute of any good biography is the examination and ultimate disposal of the numerous myths and canards that are the inevitable accretions around the life of any great man; Cairns dispels the folk-tales about the pauper's grave, the forebodings of death, the inhumanly miraculous speed of composition of some works, Mozart's supposed potty-mouthed infantilism, and other such populist generalisations. Instead, he proves a wise guide through Mozart's creative development, re-evaluating and re-assessing the importance of works such as "La clemenza di Tito" which have only recently and grudgingly been accorded their place in the Pantheon. He presents a careful and psychologically credible study of the dynamic of the constantly evolving relationship between Papa Leopold and son Wolfgang and reinstates the composer as a widely and deeply read man of the Enlightenment, not some kind of Idiot Savant.Published as recently as 2006, this book will not in any case date; it is surely destined to remain the recommended handbook for anyone needing to deepen his response to these pinnacles of Western Classical music.
  •     Cairns does a great job revealing all sorts of detail about each opera while developing some very compelling themes across operas. He is a very accessible and interesting writer, who combines research, the music, and the biographical tidbits all very well. I really recommend this book.
  •     Excellent book up to Cairns usual high standards. Not just a dry doctoral thesis. Very useful in preparing a Mozart program.
  •     Some people can paint such an active picture of the way things are ludicrous that the people who only do as well as they can get left in the dust.
  •     The spirit of Juvenal is not dead. Just read any of David Cairns' reviews from yesteryear, particularly on those occasions when Karajan & the Berlin Panzers rumbled into London to the acclaim of all and sundry. If you're going to disembowel someone with a pen, that's how to do it. Herbie should have met Cairns in person to thank him for the privilege. Oh, to be the target of such ire. It is the inky equivalent, ever-hot, of Greek Fire.Here, David Cairns turns his formidable intellect to the Seven: Idomeneo, the Abduction from the Seraglio, Figaro, the Opera of all Operas, Cosi, the Magic Flute and La Clemenza di Tito. It's less a canon and more like a Magic Circle, mysteriously interlinked with one another, evergreen, barely anchored to the here and now, and with more circuitry to their name than any timepiece.Anyone can write a `how and when' account of Mozart's compositional activities opera-wise with a timeline thrown in for good measure. Whatever: it's the Wikipedia Hour. As both Alfred Einstein and Walter James Turner demonstrated long ago, longevity comes to a commentator when they elucidate significance. Such is the case here. It's a tour de force. I was mesmerised by the book, reading it from beginning to end in one sweep. While Cairns covers off the biographical elements of each opera, he magisterially answers his own question throughout: why do these miraculous works continue to resonate as they do? Why are they so successful as stagecraft? How many streams are confluent in each work? For instance, Cairns forensically examines Mozart's own relationship with his stupendous creation, Don Giovanni himself. He rightly asks: was the composer spell-bound by the charisma of this demiurge? K 621 is accorded its rightful place at the table. What can one say of the compression that is evident in La Clemenza di Tito? Does it detract from the work or does it foreshadow a new direction which was aborted by Mozart's demise? Read it and find out!Be he academic or homespun, Cairns is clearly a musicologist but not once does he hide behind staves and crochets. This tome is fully understandable to the laity, even to a slob in a beanbag here in Australia. His genealogy is also evident: Einstein and Dent; not bad at all.If you are wanting both to understand the Seven better as theatrical creations and deepen your love therein, this book is for you - and how! While I haveThe Operas of MozartandThe Complete Operas Of Mozart (Da Capo Paperback)in my library, I predict this opus is more likely to be thumbed in a century's time when we're all dust and gone.Mister Cairns: thy eternal summer shall not fade.
  •     Excellent background on Mozart's operas. It will serve as a future reference for me.

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