Giddy sugarplum or calculating bitch? Pretty Konstanze aroused strong feelings among her contemporaries. Her in-law's loathed her. Mozart's friends, more than forty years after his death, remained eager to gossip about her "failures" as wife to the world's first superstar. Maturing from child, to wife, to hard-headed widow, Konstanze would pay Mozart's debts, provide for their children, and relentlessly market and mythologize her brilliant husband. Mozart's letters attest to his affection for Konstanze as well as to their powerful sexual bond. Nevertheless, prominent among the many mysteries surrounding the composer's untimely death: why did his much beloved Konstanze never mark his grave?
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AT SIXTEEN, MY big sister Aloysia looked like the painted goddesses who reclined voluptuously above our heads on the ceiling of the opera house. Like them, she was blonde, rosy, round breasted, and narrow waisted. Although she didn't fall in love with Mozart, as both he and my parents so ardently wished, I did.
It happened because Papa staunchly maintained that no matter how tight things were, we could, "Always spare a little beer and some of Jo's fine liver dumplings." He was forever bringing home traveling musicians from the court, absolutely certain that one of these fellows would be useful. Mama never believed his hospitality would yield anything to our advantage, but this peccadillo was the only one my father owned.
Some of our guests were famous, most were not. All, however, had exciting stories to tell about the great courts they'd seen and famous performers they'd heard. Besides, once they set eyes on Aloysia, they were glad to spend an evening giving impromptu lessons.
The most notable wanderer Papa brought home was Wolfgang Mozart. He had stopped at the Mannheim court on his way to Paris. After composing a piece for one of our noblemen, Herr Mozart had required a copyist.
He was, naturally, directed to my Papa, whose desperation was such that he took on every kind of odd job. Of course, Papa knew of him; this miracle of nature who'd been entertaining kings since his sixth year.
After the copying job was done, Papa took the pay he'd just been given and invited the famous Herr Mozart to The Ox. After downing a stein of our justly famous beer, they would harmonize on a familiar tune—the treachery ofthe nobility. It quickly became apparent that our families had much in common.
The story of Papa's fall, without the questionable details with which Mama liked to embellish it, was central. Years ago, as a bailiff for Baron Schonau, Papa had provided handsomely for his growing family.
His master, finding him compliant (what poor man with four daughters to dower is not?) involved him in a crooked business deal. When the deal went bad, Schonau had the perfect scapegoat. In the end, we had to flee the baron's lands in the middle of the night to escape arrest.
On horseback, Papa decoyed the pursuing politzei away, while Mama and the rest of us were driven across the border of the electorate in a farm wagon. Under the hay was hidden our klavier and a wardrobe; the latter stuffed with a random collection of whatever had come first to hand.
Mozart listened to this story of betrayal and ruin with great sympathy. He hated his master, Archbishop Colloredo, as thoroughly as Papa hated Baron Schonau. Mozart explained that his father, an educated man and an able musician, was constantly humiliated and bullied by the archbishop. In fact, Wolfgang was in Mannheim because he had resigned his commission and was traveling through the world looking for another.
Archbishop Colloredo was Mozart's devil and Baron Schonau was Papa's. They called for more beer and pondered the great question of the day: whether a talented, hardworking man could make his way in a world dominated by aristocratic privilege.
"Would you share my table some evening, Herr Mozart?" asked Papa. "Nothing special, of course. Only what a poor, unlucky German can offer. But my oldest girl cooks like an angel and my beautiful Aloysia, just sixteen, Herr Mozart, sings like one."
Papa had sized up his companion well. Such an invitation, a combination of earthly and musical pleasure, proved absolutely irresistible.
For days before the visit, Papa primed us. Herr Mozart was young, but he had already been commissioned to write operas for the most important Italian cities.
To honor his guest, Papa found copies of two arias from Lucio Silla, an opera Mozart had written five or six years earlier, and set Aloysia to practice them. Unfortunately for us, they were both bravura arias, written for a prima donna who loved to display not only the power of her voice, but a three-octave range. Aloysia was so diligent that our ears rang, and the neighbors kept coming around to complain.
On the day which was to prove so fateful for me, Josepha was excused from cooking and I from sewing; such was our division of labor. Fat Josepha cooked, beautiful Aloysia sang, and I, curly-headed, chubby Konstanze, sewed. Sophie, the baby, belonged to Mother, and waited only upon her.
In those days, I imagined my task the most rewarding. For what happened to the fruit of my sisters' long labor? The cook's delicious dinner disappeared into someone's gullet and the singer's aria vanished into thin air. On the other hand, a nicely embroidered petticoat or shirt gives pleasure again and again.
I've always had an impulse to practicality. As the third daughter, my life was full of hand-me-downs. How else to get clothes that fit?
"Herr Mozart mustn't see you doing servant's work," said Mama.
"Oh, Mama," I fretted."Why do we always have to pretend we're better off than we are?" That day I had been sewing a badly needed petticoat for myself.
"Why don't you do embroidery, darling? That always looks genteel."
Copyright © 2004 Juliet V. Waldron.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Many a romance novel ends with marriage. The courtship, the chase, the first declarations of love ¿ these things provide the backbone of the novel, and in the end there is marriage and, presumably, a happy ever-after. In Juliet Waldron¿s historical novel Mozart¿s Wife, however, the courtship and marriage of Konstanze Weber and Wolfgang Mozart is only the beginning. The true story begins with the wedded life that follows, when romance and love are truly tested. Konstanze begins the novel as a self-conscious young maiden, overlooked in favor of her more talented sisters. She falls in love with Mozart and can hardly believe that the astonishing young composer has chosen her for his one true soulmate. But marriage to the musical genius turns out to be a tumultuous existence for Konstanze, who quickly must mature into a wife, a mother, and household accountant. Konstanze, who grew up in a musical family, is not unappreciative of Mozart¿s genius, but reality dictates that music be treated as a business, rather than an art. While Wolfgang Mozart follows his muse, creating the music he loves¿whether there is a market for it or not¿Konstanze tries to prevent them from falling into poverty. Mozart is flighty, unpredictable, and easily swayed by his friends. Konstanze has to wrest control of the household accounts from him just to keep their family from ruin. Like many women of her day, she finds herself constantly pregnant every childbirth is a life-endangering horror, and the precious infants are easily carried off by disease. Grief for her children and scandalous rumors of her husband¿s infidelity test the limits of her love, but Mozart¿s emotional bond with his wife proves strong enough to last beyond his death¿surprising even Konstanze. Juliet Waldron has created a believable, multi-faceted portrait of a wife loved but betrayed, adoring and yet resentful, capricious and sometimes spiteful. Mozart¿s Wife is a memorable historical novel about a woman who has been long overlooked and often maligned by historians, but without whose intervention Mozart¿s music might have been lost to the world forever.
This truly is a masterpiece of literature. The years of research and care that went into this fascinating story of genius, love, dysfunction, heartbreak, and redemption are apparent on every page. It's as if Stanzi, Mrs. Mozart, finally has a voice, her story told through the willing vessel of author Juliet Waldron. I highly recommend you read this book and then tell all your friends about this hidden gem. "Mozart's Wife" deserves to be on the NY Times Bestseller List.
In 'Mozart's Wife' Juliet Waldron makes the bimbo of the film 'Amadeus' into a completely convincing, engaging character in her own right, much more than just the wife of a famous man. The narrative voice makes the shift from teenage girl, to harried wife and mother, to mature woman, without ever losing the reader's sympathy or letting the impeccable research intrude into the personal story. Waldron not only presents an entirely credible picture of a place and a time, and of a relationship, but gives Konstanze Mozart her due as the person most responsible for 'marketing' Mozart's music after his death and making sure he became the genius the world knows and appreciates today. The story covers Konstanze's life past her marriage to Mozart, into her old age. Before reading this book I knew almost nothing of Mozart's life and family -- nothing, in fact, except his music -- so 'Mozart's Wife' offers painless learning along with a thoroughly good and satisfying read. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a solid, well researched historical novel based on fact, and a moving look into a woman's difficult life.
The story starts where so many stories of love end, and that is at the just-got-married, live-happily-ever-after point. This is a story of the marriage and how love endures through many difficulties. Mozart is not easy to live with. Konstanze can be a nag. There is betrayal. There is the music. There is love. It's a wonderful story about amazing people and a real
I just finished listening to the audiobook, 'Mozart's Wife.' This book is so vivid --- you feel like you KNOW Constanze and Wolfgang! The reader (I apologize, I've forgotten her name) is great! I would highly recommend --- particularly the audio version!
Nightingale was the first book by Juliette Waldron that I read, and I'm glad I did, because she brings her characters to life so well. In Nightingale we caught a glimpse of Mozart, now we have a full book! This one feature's his wife and is told from her point of view. I absolutely devoured this book. Konstanze is quite a character and this book really made me want to learn more about Mozart. I found myself googling him more and more throughout the book. He was really quite the character, a rock star of his time. He was a regular ladies man and he was terrible with his money. Their relationship was full of trials and tribulations, but whose marriage isn't? But that is what brought both characters to life for the reader. You also so Mozart as a man. A man who loved his music but who loved women just as much. And you saw how that changed his marriage. I felt sorry for Konstanze. She had all that to deal with and she had several children, nearly dying in childbirth more than once, and with most of her children dying in their childhood. This is a fantastic book about Mozart and his family. If you haven't read any of Juliet's books, this is a great one to start with.
Mozart's Germany came to life for me. The details in the book, from the domestic arrangements to the masquerade balls, are colorful background for the story. Costanze Mozart's life is written in her own words, detailing the joys and sorrows of marriage, motherhood, and sensuous femininity. This would make an excellent discussion book for women interested in issues of marriage and fidelity.
Could not put it down
I was blown away by this novel because it truly is excellent. Waldron's prose is gorgeous all the way through, capturing the reader because of its reality and passion and lyrical quality in a way that enhances the scope of the story, based on history. To travel along throughout Constanze's life as she deals with the difficulty of being married to a genius like Mozart is a real treat. I've always felt history should be compelling and fascinating, and it can be. Waldron just proved it with this excellent book. It's easy to see why it won the Independent E-Book Awards when it was first an e-book.
An overlooked gem of a novel that brings to life the story of Konstanze Mozart, wife of the talented, eccentric, irresponsible, and promiscuous genius Wolfgang Amadeus. Waldron clearly poured years of research and passion into her novel, for her 18th-century world springs vividly to life, and each character--from Konstanze to the lowliest servant--is intricately and thoughtfully drawn. Proving that 'historical fiction' should not automatically be equated with a dry, heavy read, MOZART¿S WIFE successfully combines romance, history, music, and even erotica and leads the reader on a memorable journey through the life of a long-ago superstar. A must have.