Mozart Minute: Beer and Poetry
If you’re a genius working on your latest masterpiece, you have to take some time off once in a while to stop and smell the roses. Or to stop and drink beer.
At least, that’s what Mozart did while composing his opera Idomeneo. He wrote the opera on commission from the duke of Bavaria and traveled to Munich, the duke’s backyard, to do the work. In actuality, Mozart’s mission in traveling to Munich in early November 1780 was threefold – to finish the score and oversee the first production of Idomeneo, to try to wiggle his way into a court job and thereby be in a position to leave Salzburg and his boss, the Archbishop von Colloredo, behind for good.
Mozart’s correspondence with his father between taking up residence in Munich in November 1780 and Idomeneo’s premiere there on Jan. 29, 1781 documents Mozart’s extensive labors on the opera.
In Mozart’s work ethic, all that hard work meant that hard play couldn’t be too far behind. During his time in Munich, Mozart lived right around the corner from the city’s historic Hofbräuhaus am Platzl. There, according to Mozart’s poem “Of All the Cities,” Mozart found refreshment during his work on Idomeneo.
Here is Mozart’s poem, as translated in Jeffrey Gaab’s book Munich: Hofbräuhaus & History: Beer, Culture, Politics:
Of all the cities in which I stayed
made much music and my instruments played
I once took up residence in Munich.
I gave a fine concert there at court,
the opera Idomeneo in 1780 I wrote
and often sought refreshment in the Duke’s brew house.
The beer there really pleased me
and the guests never ceased to amuse me
anyone who’s been there would agree with me!