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Classical 101

Mozart Minute: When in Paris, Do As the Parisians Do

In our previous episode, Wolfgang Mozart, in Paris seeking to establish himself as an opera composer, wrote to his father, Leopold, bemoaning the Parisians' poor musical taste. Mozart had been steeped in Italian opera and sought to develop his career in the Italian tradition. Leopold Mozart's response to his son's letter shows that he was sympathetic to Wolfgang's frustrations with French taste, but that ultimately, practicality won out: "I am sorry to hear that the French have not yet altered their taste completely; but, believe me, they will do so gradually, for it is no easy matter to remould a whole nation. It is already a sufficiently good sign that they can listen to what is good; for by degrees they too will notice the difference. I implore you, before writing for the French stage, to listen to their operas and find out what above all pleases them. Well, you will now become a thorough Frenchman and you will endeavour, I hope, to acquire the correct accent." Leopold had to wait about two weeks for Wolfgang's response, which included an account of dirty pool with a Parisian concert impresario. You, on the other hand, need wait only for the next episode.