What does the child prodigy Mozart have to do with Verona? I’m sure that even Mozart would have been captivated by the beauty of the city, the place where he stayed longest during his tours of Italy.
Just imagine this thirteen year-old boy and his father, Leopold, arriving in Verona and starting to play his sublime melodies in the city’s finest theatres. His fame already preceded him and the people who heard him live for the first time were left astounded. Indeed, after that first visit, he was greeted in Verona with ever greater acclaim and applause.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Visits to Verona
For European artists in the 1700s, it was common to complete artistic or musical studies in Italy. They would then be able to return home with a certificate that helped them to enjoy increased recognition and international renown. Many illustrious travellers would stop off at Verona during their trip to Italy, something which can be attributed to the fact that the city has always been a crossroads for many other people in northern Italy.
Coming back to Mozart, some records show that during his first trip with his father he stayed in the Due Torri hotel in Piazza Sant’Anastasia. At the time it was a famous hotel where important people stayed and nowadays it is one of the city’s most luxurious hotels, with a splendid summertime terrace overlooking the red roofs of Verona.
After staying here, father and son were the guests of Mr Pietro Lugiato in his spacious home opposite the botanic gardens near the church of Santa Maria Antica. It was here that they first met the city’s wealthiest and most learned people. Following this visit, the Mozart and Lugiati families formed a friendship built on respect for each other and Lugiati hosted the Austrian musician on two subsequent Italian tours.
A moment from this visit to Verona that is still commemorated with events in the city centre is Mozart’s performance in 1770 in what is now the Sala Maffeiana of the Accademia Filarmonica. To the great acclaim of Verona’s elite in attendance.
After his Italian début, Mozart returned to Verona the following year. This time, however, he wanted to perform in the church of San Tomaso Cantuariense. Why? Because, just as it does today, it has a valuable organ built by Giuseppe Bonatti in 1716. But the most extraordinary part of these concerts was surely the fact that Mozart was improvising the melodies or presenting his own compositions. What an incredible young prodigy.
It goes without saying that he was a great success again. Suffice to say that the initials of the young Mozart are carved (and are still clearly visible) on the instrument that he played. To give you an idea of the incredible adulation young Wolfgang received, here is an extract from the letter his father Leopold wrote to the boy’s mother:
"… After lunch we drove to the Church of San Tomaso in order to play on the two organs there, such a crowd had assembled that we had hardly room to get out of the coach. The crush was so great that we were obliged to go through the monastery. But in a moment so many people had rushed up to us that we should not have been able to proceed at all, if the Fathers, who were already waiting for us at the monastery doors, had not taken us into their midst. When the performance was over, the throng was even greater, for everyone wanted to see the little organist.”
Mozart’s Music Continues to Ring Out in Verona
Bonatti’s famous organ that I mentioned earlier is still used by the greatest Italian organists to celebrate the work of the little master. In January 2020 the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Mozart’s first visit to Verona was marked with a series of concerts paying tribute to him in the Sala Maffeiana, the place where he first performed in the city, and in the church of San Tomaso Cantuariense. There was also an exhibition in the public library recalling the musical performances of Salzburg’s most famous son here in Verona. The aim of these was to bring together the resources and skills of a number of important cultural bodies for the benefit of the whole city.
Do you love classical music? Stay tuned for the latest information about classical music events in the city!