One of the more notable moments in Mozart’s 1786 opera The Marriage of Figaro is the “military aria”, Non più andrai. Recent research throws fresh light on its music, as the Cherubino alla vittoria! exhibition in the Mozarthaus explains.
- Reveals Mozart’s genius (again)
- Intriguing details on the music and military of the time
- Cooperation with Vienna City Library
- Runs Jan 27, 2023 to Jan 28, 2024
- See also:
Cherubino alla vittoria!
(Exhibition view; press photo © Mozarthaus Vienna / Alexander Wulz)
At the end of Act I of The Marriage of Figaro, the title character takes pleasure in recounting the “joys” of the soldier’s life to Cherubino, who is due to be sent off to the army.
As Figaro gleefully points out, Cherubino can expect to swap the romantic interludes of Count Almaviva’s palace for the retort of cannons. Not a pleasant prospect.
The end of the Non più andrai aria sees Mozart lead the orchestra into a jaunty military march. But what lies behind this particular composition?
A plausible answer comes in the Cherubino alla vittoria! exhibition, which takes its title from the line in the libretto where the march begins.
It seems Mozart may have drawn on an existing, but now largely forgotten, march of the time to add a dose of poignant realism to the opera. Equally, the changes he made to fit the tone and pace of the narrative and performance reveal his compositional eminence.
As well as exploring the history of Mozart’s march interlude (and its afterlife), this small exhibition also takes us into several intriguing historical and musical nooks and crannies.
We discover, for example, the role of music in supporting military endeavours, where a suitable march boosted the resolve of army conscripts whose courage and motivation might otherwise waver.
Other patriotic pieces did something similar for a skeptical public (Mozart obligingly produced 1788’s La Bataille for that very reason).
All of this is illustrated through original documents, pictures, sheet music, travel dairies and similar that include such delights as an early 18th-century trumpet or autograph scores with handwritten comments by Paganini and Schubert.
Detailed display texts also offer tidbits of tasty information. For example:
- A quote from a witness to the first rehearsal of the Non più andrai aria (it went well)
- A rather negative (and, with hindsight, inaccurate) review of The Marriage of Figaro from shortly after its premiere
- Quotes from a plea for peace published from the time of the Austro-Turkish war (late 1700s) that seem just as relevant today
- An explanation of the role of plagiarism and copying in music before we had copyright laws. Where a Persian march by Johann Strauss II can be traced back to an Azerbaijani folk song via a Glinka opera and (allegedly) a Persian prince!
The thematic introductions leave you wishing for even more, and much praise is due curator Thomas Aigner for packing so much insight into just one room.
Dates, tickets & tips
Enjoy exploring the background to the martial music that ends Non più andrai from January 27th, 2023 to January 28th, 2024. Any ticket to the Mozarthaus includes the exhibition.
The aria first played out in public at the court theatre, which was later demolished to make way for improvements to the outer Hofburg on Michaelerplatz square. You can see a photo of the original building on this page (second entry).
Today’s Vienna offers three opera houses by way of compensation, and you have a good chance of catching The Marriage of Figaro at one of them.
For example, the Staatsoper just happens to include performances in its 2022/2023 and 2023/2024 seasons: see one for the price of coffee and cake using these tips.
(Or to simply view inside the Staatsoper building, try one of the in-house guided tours.)
How to get there
Check the travel tips on the Mozarthaus page. The location is behind Stephansdom cathedral right in the centre.
Address: Domgasse 5, 1010 Vienna