Opinions / July 19, 2019
A Radical Theory about Colloredo (part two)
By Rollan Wengert
Last Column, I focused on Mozart’s infamous employer Archbishop Colloredo. How Colloredo inherited the Mozart family as employees from the previous Archbishop--who had allowed the Mozarts to travel Europe as they please, while still earning pay. In addition, I addressed the political climate Colloredo faced as he tried to institute more efficient policies concerning his governance. And, how chasing Salzburg’s prized pupil away would be politically problematic for the Archbishop. The overall premise of this column series is to suggest that perhaps Colloredo was not the evil man history has made him out to be, but might have been an individual seeking Mozart’s best interests.
So, it was 1777. In his efficiencies, Colloredo limited the Mozart travels. Putting myself in his shoes, I have a hard time blaming him. I liken it to my work. If I were to complain about how horrible my boss was, yet demanded that he should pay for me to work at other locations while I try to find a position there, how should I reasonably expect him to react? Leopold, however, believed Colloredo to be unreasonable. Eventually, he sent the Archbishop a letter. He stated that the Gospel requires people to use their talents. And, he requested to be allowed to tour again. Even if Colloredo wasn’t a prideful man (which he clearly was), he’d certainly have a hard time with such demands. The Archbishop responded with his infamous letter, ‘in the name of the Gospel, father and son have my permission to seek their fortune elsewhere.’
So, why did Colloredo essentially fire the Mozarts ‘in the name of the Gospel’? The less-than-religious, and even many of the religious, would say such an action is contrary to the Gospel. But, this is not necessarily the case. True, Leopold was correct. The Gospel does call us to use our talents for God. However, the main thrust of the Gospel is trusting that God has provided, and will provide, in order that we may use our talents. Colloredo (who himself likely had faith issues) knew Leopold lacked the faith to venture out without an earthly safety net. Thus, Leopold caved, and Colloredo took him back as long as he remained in Salzburg.
Mozart, however, traveled Europe. Leopold monetarily supported the trip. Why did Colloredo allow him to go? Many books and documentaries seem suggest Colloredo did this to spite Leopold, and watch Mozart fail. Spiting Leopold may be possible, but I can’t help but wonder if he really wanted Mozart to fail. Sure, there’s the old if you let a bird go cliché. I just can’t imagine a politically-calculated man releasing his arena’s prized calf, apart from any other motive than principle. If spiting Leopold was the lone goal, he had already had the man humbled to full servitude. I believe Colloredo truly wanted Mozart to find a suitable position on his journey.
Not only did Colloredo want Mozart to find a suitable post, he may have wanted Mozart to gain independence from his domineering father. That is why he insisted Leopold never leave Salzburg. However, Mozart’s journey failed. In addition, his mother died chaperoning the young musician. This gave Leopold even more power over his son, who blamed Mozart for her death. But, she did not have to go, Leopold mostly did not want Mozart finding a woman, leaving the family. He did find a girl, but Mozart’s mom and dad put a kibosh on that.
When Mozart returned, defeated, Leopold got him a job back in the service of Colloredo. Possibly, for the sake of Salzburg political pressure, and for the sorrowed musician’s soul, Colloredo took Mozart back. (And, here’s where my theories will grow to their radical climax.) Colloredo then knew he would have to seek extreme measures to separate father from son, while not enraging his Salzburg constituents. Colloredo would have to engineer a way for Moazrt to stand up for himself and leave of his own accord. Next week, I detail all the steps Colloredo took to get Mozart to leave his father, his home, and his job, in order that he might venture out on his own.
The vehicle of this independence: opera.