144. Bastien und Bastienne (Mozart)

  • Singspiel in one act
  • Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Libretto: Friedrich Wilhelm Weiskern, Johann Heinrich Friedrich Müller, and Johann Andreas Schachtner
  • First confirmed performance: Architektenhaus, Berlin, 2 October 1890

Bastien und Bastienne is inoffensive. It is impossible to hate, and equally impossible to love. It is, in fact, difficult to muster strong opinions about this anodyne work.

It has no historical significance; no standout numbers; and no subtext or themes; and may not even have been performed in its composer’s lifetime.

It is, however, by Mozart. And it’s short.

The opera is a pendant to Rousseau’s Devin du village, a pastorale in which two shepherd sweethearts reunite. Mozart’s version contains less dancing. The libretto is a German translation of a French parody (Favart and Guerville’s Amours de Bastien et Bastienne, 1753).

According to Nissen, Constanze Mozart’s second husband, the boy composed the work in 1768 for a private performance at hypnotist Anton Messmer’s house. This may be apocryphal; Nissen’s biography was published in 1828, 37 years after its subject’s death. The first known performance was in Berlin in 1890.

This operina leaves almost no impression. Many of the numbers are shorter than 90 seconds; the better ones are Colas’s magic song, the quarrel duet “Geh hin!”, and the reconciliation duet “Geh, geh”. These are small beer.

It has, however, remained in the repertoire of the Wiener Sängerknaben. Osborne suggests this “unambitious little” work, “interspersed with songs which are hardly grand enough to be called arias”, was composed for amateurs. Its small cast makes it easy to mount, and the music is easy on the ear without lingering.

There is, however, less to it than Apollo et Hyacinthus.


WORKS CONSULTED

  • Alfred Einstein, Mozart: his character – his work, trans. Arthur Mendel and Nathan Broder, London: Cassell, 1946
  • Piotr Kaminski, Mille et un opéras, Paris : Fayard, 2003
  • Charles Osborne, The Complete Operas of Mozart, London: Victor Gollancz, 1978

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