Theophilus

From Jeff Shaumeyer on Facebook on the 18th:

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We were a little surprised to notice that the logo for the Hotel Amadeus is a portrait of George Washington. Rome, Italy. 20171028

I replied:

Ah, that’s George Amadeus Washington, an Italian con man who made a career of passing himself off as the Father of the U.S.A. and, incidentally, the composer of The Magic Flute.

Jeff:

That’s good to know! My knowledge of history is so spotty.

And then Rod Williams in high mischief mode:

Didn’t he write that opera, Il ciliegio bugiardo?

Two things: the story of George Amadeus Washington; and that remarkable chamber opera Il ciliegio bugiardo.

GAW. Further notes on this fascinating character:

In his declining years, Amadeus Washington attached himself, by tendrils of sheer charm, to the Hotel Amadeus in Rome, where he debauched himself with darkly handsome Italian boys and, when available, touristic Yankee studs. He vanished without a trace in the Great Roman Cataclysm of 1848, when the entire neighborhood of the hotel was dragged into the underworld by a giant stone statue that had come to life. Or so they say.

Amadeus Washington’s hotel days were memorialized in the popular canzone “Hotel Amadeus”; highlights:

Welcome to the Hotel Amadeus
Such a lovely place
With a lot of pretty, pretty boys
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget
‘Relax’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
Washington can check out any time he likes,
But he can never leave!’

(Reader’s note: this passage makes (a bit) more sense if you know about Mozart’s 1787 opera Don Giovanni and the Eagles’ 1976 song “Hotel California”.)

Il cilegio bugiardo. What I said on Facebook:

Oh my, now that is splendid, just splendid. For the unwary reader, just to start, Il cilegio bugiardo is ‘the lying cherry-tree’. (Cue George Washington myths.) Then I guess the obvious model is Rossini’s La gazza ladra ‘The thieving magpie’ [1817], with possible contributions from other operas, like Goldoni’s Il Bugiardo ‘The liar’ [1750] and maybe Mozart’s early opera La finta giardiniera ‘The pretend/faux garden-girl’ [1775]. All about pretense.

(But Rod might have had other things in mind; these are just the associations that are immediate for me.)

(Note: by various accidents of history, I know a lot more about the Goldoni – Mozart – Rossini period of music history than the average bear, though what’s left of that knowledge now is entirely superficial.)

And above all of this hovers the spirit of Oscar Wilde.

My associations above; Rod wrote:

You nailed it with La finta giardiniera. I heard an aria from it on Saturday night.

On La gazza ladra, from Wikipedia:

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La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie) is a melodrama or opera semiseria in two acts by Gioachino Rossini [first performed in 1817], with a libretto by Giovanni Gherardini based on La pie voleuse by Théodore Baudouin d’Aubigny and Louis-Charles Caigniez. … The Thieving Magpie is best known for the overture, which is musically notable for its use of snare drums.

[YouTube of Claudio Abbado conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in 1991 here]

[The melodies were] used to bizarre and dramatic effect in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

As for La finta giardiniera, three things. First, it has a libretto that reads like a parody of opera librettos. Untouched from Wikipedia:

Summary: The story follows Count Belfiore and the Marchioness Violante Onesti, who were lovers before Belfiore stabbed Violante in a fit of rage. The story begins with the revived Violante and her servant Roberto disguised as “Sandrina” and “Nardo,” and quietly working in the mansion of the town Podestà [roughly, chief magistrate]. Violante discovers that Belfiore has become engaged to Arminda, the niece of the Podestà, and when Belfiore confesses his lingering love for Violante, Arminda jealously conspires to abduct the other woman. When Violante is found, she and Belfiore lose their minds and believe themselves to be Greek gods. When they regain their senses Violante forgives the Count and they fly to each other’s arms. Arminda returns to Cavalier Ramiro, her spurned suitor, and Roberto finds love with Serpetta, another servant of the Podestà.

Sexual violence, servants and masters, disguises, love triangles, descent into madness, Greek gods, pairing off of lovers for the finale. It does, however, lack an exotic setting (ancient Egypt, Turkey, the desert outside New Orleans). (By and large, courtesans, consumptive or otherwise, were a later development.)

Second, Mozart was all of 18, and the music is quite accomplished. By 1775, Mozart had written 30 symphonies. Later in the year he finished another opera, Il re pastore. He was just a few years short of the first of his great operas, Idomeneo and Die Entführung.

Third, Mozart was baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. The family quickly abandoned the Greek-based Theophilus ‘friend/lover of God’ for the entirely Latin-based Amadeus.

 

2 Responses to “Theophilus”

  1. felixculpa47 Says:

    Maybe Theophilus/Amadeus was for Gottlieb?

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Not an unreasonable idea at first, since Gottlieb was indeed used as a male personal name at the time. But that use was associated with Pietistic Lutheranism (the surname used for Jews came later) — while Mozart and his family were devout Catholics, so they almost surely would never have entertained the fully German name Gottlieb for Wolfgang (and instead opted for the Latin variant).

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