A Bohemian Composer Meets a Mozart Singer: Kozeluch's Rondò for Adriana Ferrarese

This is an expansion of a paper given at the conference “Mozart in Prague,” Prague, 2–13 June 2009


Mozartians know Adriana Ferrarese, who sang in Vienna from 1788 to 1791, as the soprano who portrayed Susanna in the 1789 revival of Figaro and created the role of Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte.[1] Ferrarese specialized in the performance of the two-tempo rondò, and she seems to have insisted that a rondò written especially for her—or one that she considered suitable for her voice—be inserted into the operas in which she starred. Her career in Vienna can be traced through a succession of arias in which Vienna's leading composers explored the conventions of the rondò and the musical and dramatic possibilities offered by her voice and stage personality. The Bohemian musician Leopold Kozeluch composed what may have been the last of these arias. This paper looks briefly at Kozeluch’s aria and places it within the context of Ferrarese’s cultivation of the two-tempo rondò.

            Ferrarese and Da Ponte, the Italian troupe’s librettist from 1783, were both dismissed in April 1791. One of the last productions in which they both participated was L’ape musicale rinnuovata, performed in Vienna during Lent 1791. Assembled by Da Ponte and given by the Italian singers for their own benefit, it consisted of popular arias and ensembles from operas previously performed in Vienna, strung together with a flimsy plot about the making of a pasticcio.

      In act 2, the librettist Bonario and two singers, Farinella and Capriccio, ask the prima donna Zuccherina (sung by Ferrarese) to sing a rondò:


Bonario                       Ma se volesse poi farmi la grazia                               But if you wished to do me the favor

                       Di cantare un rondò,                                                             of singing a rondò,

                       Coronerebbe l’opra.                                                              it would be the opera’s highpoint.

Zuccherina      Perché no?                                                                          Why not?

Farinella                              Quale, quale?                                                  Which one? Which one?

Zuccherina      Quel dell’Arbor di Diana?                                                      The one from L’arbore di Diana?

Bonario                                           È troppo vecchio.                                  It’s too old.

Zuccherina     Quel del Figaro?                                                                    The one from Figaro?

Bonario                                È bello,                                                            It’s beautiful, but I wouldn’t

                      Ma non saprei come introdurlo.                                              know how to introduce it.

Zuccherina                                                  Quello                                      I will sing the one 

                      Ti canterò della Molinarella.                                                   from La molinara.

Capriccio        Su la terra non v’è cosa più bella.[2]                                     There is nothing more beautiful in the world.


            This dialogue alludes to three of the rondòs that Ferrarese sang during her tenure in Vienna. It also alludes to the practice, encouraged by Ferrarese, of inserting rondòs into the arias in which she starred. None of the three operas named here originally contained the rondò that Ferrarese sang in it. “Quel dell’Arbor di Diana” was “Ah sol bramo o mia speranza,” written by Angelo Tarchi for Il conte di Saldagna (Milan, 1787) and inserted for Ferrarese into Martín y Soler’s L’arbore di Diana, the opera in which she made her Viennese debut in October 1788. “Quel del Figaro” was “Al desio di chi t’adora,” written by Mozart for Ferrarese when Figaro was revived in 1789 with Ferrarese as Susanna. And “Quello … della Molinarella” was “Ah brillar la nuova aurora,” from Cimarosa’s La vergine del sole, inserted in Paisiello’s La molinara when it was performed in Vienna, with Ferrarese in the title role, in November 1790.[3]

              Much has been written during the last thirty years about the two-tempo rondò and the conventions that characterize this most conventional of aria forms. Suffice it to say here that the rondò is defined by a combination of poetry, music, and dramaturgical function. The poem typically consists of twelve lines of ottonari, grouped in three quatrains. In the music, a slow section in the form A-B-A is usually followed by a fast section in the form C-D-C-E, with the recurring melodies A and C using gavotte rhythm. The rondò typically constitutes a musical and dramatic climax near the end of an opera, when a principal character—a man or a woman in serious opera, a woman in comic opera—alone on stage, expresses his or her feelings at a moment of personal crisis.[4]

               Table 1 is a list of the rondòs that Ferrarese is known to have sung in Vienna. The annus mirabilis of Ferrarese’s cultivation of the rondò was 1790, when she sang as many as seven different rondòs. That year’s repertory of existing operas included L’arbore di Diana, Salieri’s La cifra, and the 1789 version of Figaro, all of which contained rondòs for Ferrarese. In addition, in January 1790 she created the role of Fiordiligi, singing Mozart’s “Per pietà ben mio perdona.” In April she took the title role in the Viennese premiere of Paisiello’s Nina, heavily revised by Da Ponte and Weigl, who wrote for her the rondò “Ah se un padre a un’ infelice.”[5] That version of Paisiello’s opera was a flop, performed only three times.[6] Ferrarese saved her rondò and transferred it to another opera, Guglielmi’s La pastorella nobile, which came to the Viennese stage the next month.[7] In Paisiello’s La molinara she sang the rondò by Cimarosa that she later repeated in L’ape musicale rinnuovata. Finally, in December she took part in a revival of Kozeluch’s oratorio Moisè in Egitto.

            Kozeluch, who arrived in Vienna in 1778, quickly established himself as one of the capital’s leading composers, keyboard players, and music publishers. In December 1787 he presented Moisè in Egitto in concerts of the charitable Tonkünstler-Sozietät. Among the members of the court opera troupe who participated in those concerts was the prima donna Anna Morichelli, who created the role of the Egyptian princess—the adoptive mother of Moses—Merimè. One of the high points of Merimè’s role is the brilliant coloratura aria in sonata form, “Colpo di vento alpestre,” which took full advantage of Morichelli’s agility and high tessitura. Exactly three years later, in December 1790, Kozeluch presented Moisè again, this time with Ferrarese as Merimè.[8] We can guess what Ferrarese wanted Kozeluch to do, in order to make the role of Merimè fully hers.

               If a libretto was published for the 1790 revival of Moisè, no copy of it seems to have survived. The only evidence we have of changes that Kozeluch made in preparation for the revival is a Viennese manuscript score of Moisè preserved in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna.[9] This score includes “Colpo di vento alpestre,” but it also includes another scena for Merimè that a binder erroneously inserted into the middle of “Colpo di vento alpestre.” This added scena, “Che veggo! Qual timore m’assale,” culminates in an exquiste rondò, “Caro figlio questo addio.” This scena can be studied in a piano-vocal score and can be heard in a wonderful performance by Simone Kermes. Milan Postolka did not apparently notice this second scena; he did not mention it in the entry for Moisè in the thematic catalogue that forms an important part of his book on Kozeluch.[10]

                The manuscript does not explicitly attribute Merimè’s rondò to Kozeluch, and the absence of the text from all surviving librettos of Moisè might lead us to be skeptical of his authorship. But other evidence allows us to attribute the rondò to him without any doubt. As Postolka documented, a rondò with the same musical incipit as “Caro figlio” circulated in Bohemia, always attributed to Kozeluch, in versions with a Latin text (“Domine non sum dignus” and an Italian text different from the one with which it was sung in Moisè (“Caro bene questo addio”). With that alternate Italian text the rondò was published under Kozeluch’s name by Corri, Dussek & Co. in London).[11]

     The manuscript of “Caro figlio questo addio” in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde does not mention Ferrarese, and her name has not, to the best of my knowledge, been connected with Kozeluch’s rondò. But the only explanation for its presence in the manuscript of Moisè that I can think of is that Kozeluch, in adjusting the part of Merimè for Ferrarese, took account of her extraordinary devotion to this particularly type of aria by replacing “Colpo di vento alpestre” with “Caro figlio questo addio.” It is possible that he wrote the rondò, with the text “Caro bene,” for some other purpose, and then inserted the existing aria into Moisè. But it seems much more likely to me that he composed the aria especially for Ferrarese, and that later he changed the text to widen its appeal among amateur singers. Close study of “Caro figlio” suggests that Kozeluch knew several of the rondos that Ferrarese sang before his and that he intended his aria as a contribution to the tradition that these rondòs together represented.           

            Writing rondòs for Ferrarese, Viennese composers before Kozeluch made slightly varying demands on a voice whose range extend a little more than two octaves, from A below middle C up to high C. (Composers asked her to sing those notes very rarely; more often they treated B flat below middle C and B flat above the staff as her highest and lowest notes.) Her tessitura extended about an octave and a fifth, from middle C up to G above the staff. Mozart, Salieri, and Weigl typically saved a note at the top of Ferrarese’s range for the end of the rondò, with Mozart taking her the highest—to B natural above the staff—at the end of “Per pietà.” Ferrarese could sing ornate coloratura and had an impressive command of cantar di sbalzo, leaping dramatically from her highest notes to her lowest and vice versa; and in composing for her, Viennese composers often, but not always demanded such athletic feats. Mozart’s “Al desio” has noticeably little coloratura and cantar di sbalzo.

            Composers writing rondòs for Ferrarese in Vienna limited themselves to a small number of keys. The singer herself helped to define her tonal territory with the choice of the two rondòs by Tarchi that she often sang in Vienna. Both were originally in E major; one, “Ah sol bramo,” was transposed up to F for her to sing in L’arbore di Diana. Mozart and Salieri, in writing their rondòs for Ferrarese in 1789, used these two keys—and only these keys. Weigl, a few months later, explored a new tonality, E flat, in composing “Ah se un padre.”

            Almost as if to dramatize his innovative choice of key, Weigl connected the end of the orchestrally accompanied recitative in his scena for Ferrarese to the beginning of the aria with a modulatory transition from G minor to E flat major. Neither Mozart nor Salieri did anything like this in their rondòs for Ferrarese.

            In the instrumental sonorities with which they accompanied Ferrarese, Viennese composers were drawn to horns, clarinets, and bassoons. A wind sextet of basset horns, bassoons, and horns accompanies the opening measures of Mozart’s “Al desio,” while the opening vocal phrase of Salieri’s “Sola e mesta” is accompanied by two horns alone. Clarinets have important melodic material in both “Sola e mesta” and Mozart’s “Per pietà”; the latter of course has important horns parts as well. Clarinets, bassoons, and horns have an equally prominent role in Weigl’s “Ah se un padre,” with the clarinet emerging in the fast section as the primary instrumental soloist.

            Mozart and Salieri closely followed the structural conventions associated with the rondò. Table 2 shows that their rondòs for Ferrarese differ in form only in that in “Al desio” a transition (which I label x) separates the two main themes A and C, while “Sola e mesta” and “Per pietà” have no transition. Weigl, on the other hand, introduced a structural ambiguity in his fast section that Tarchi had exploited in “Ah sol bramo.” Weigl’s Allegro, like Tarchi’s, begins with what sounds like a transition that ends on the dominant, with fermatas. This passage is followed by what is apparently the principal melody of the fast section (on the words “Quella pace, quel ristoro”). The analytical problem arises only later, when all this material (x as well as C) returns after the episode D. The transitional character and function of passage x is undercut when we hear it a second time. The return of x tempts us, in retrospect, to understand x as the first part of a larger, composite C-section.

             Weigl’s rondò, in short, broke new ground vis-à-vis the rondòs of Mozart and Salieri (even though the Allegro’s structural ambiguity recalls that of Tarchi’s rondò of 1787). If, as is likely, Kozeluch wrote his rondò for Ferrarese in the fall of 1790, he saw Weigl’s “Ah se un padre” as the most recently composed, and in certain respects the most innovative of Ferrarese’s rondòs. Not surprisingly, Weigl’s rondò seems to have served Kozeluch as a particularly important model.

            Kozeluch’s scena is a setting of a text that in style and structure conforms to the poetic conventions associated with this kind of text. In the absence of the text from printed librettos, I have extracted it from the manuscript score and arranged it as it might have been printed in a libretto, indicating the number of syllables in each of the recitative’s versi sciolti (including two lines with irregular numbers of syllables). The aria text, like those of many other rondò-poems, is in ottonari throughout. Kozeluch responded to this conventional poetry with music that in some respects is equally conventional (see Table 3).



Kozeluch, “Che veggo? Qual timore” / “Caro figlio questo addio”


                                                                    Number of   Translation                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          


Che veggo? Qual timore                                  7                  What do I see? What fear

M’assale? Moisé non veggo.                           8!                  assails me? I do not see Moses.

Qual guerra ho nel mio sen mentre lo lascio.    11                 What struggle I feel in my breast when I          

Sento gelarmi il sangue.                                  7                  leave him. I feel my blood freeze;

Nel dirli addio mi si divide il core                      11                 in saying farewell to him, my heart breaks.

Ah che d’un vil timore                                     7                   Ah, these are not the voices of

Non son queste le voci; il mio spavento           11                 a petty fear; my terror

Non è senza ragion. Forse spirando                 11                 is not groundless. Perhaps my dear,

Sta l’infelice ancor mio caro figlio.                    11                unfortunate son is still breathing.

Io mi sento morir, e questo pianto…                 11                 I think I am dying, and this weeping—

Ah che nel dirlo io tremo…                               7                  ah, I tremble just saying it—

Questo pianto, figlio mio, forse è l’estremo.      12!                this weeping, my son, is perhaps my last.


Caro figlio questo addio                                                       Dear son, this farewell

   Forse l’ultimo sarà;                                                          will perhaps be the last;

   Ah l’affanno del cor mio                                                   ah, my suffering heart

   Più conforto, oh Dio, non ha.                                            has nothing more to comfort it.

Qual momento, eterni Dei,                                                  What a moment, eternal gods,

   Di spavento e di terror!                                                    of fear and terror.

   Son si fieri i affanni miei,                                                  My torments are so fierce,

   E pur vivo e spiro ancor.                                                   and yet I live and breathe still.

Come, o Numi, questo core                                                  How, oh gods, has this heart

   Meritò tal crudeltà?                                                           deserved such cruelty?

   Un materno giusto amore                                                  At least have pity

   Abbia almen da voi pietà!                                                   on a just, maternal heart.



             Kozeluch, like Weigl, chose the key of E flat for his rondò. His recitative, like Weigl’s, ends in G minor. And again like Weigl, Kozeluch connected the recitative and aria with a transition that modulates from G minor to E flat major. Both transitions have the same length (six measures) and the same tonal destination (V of E flat).  

            Kozeluch’s Allegro, like Weigl’s, departs from the structural norms of the rondo, but in a different way. Listening to the Allegro for the first time, we assume that section C (with gavotte rhythms) is the main theme and that D is the episode. But our expectations are frustrated when D is followed not by a second statement of C, but instead by a new theme in the tonic, stated by solo clarinet and soprano (“Son si fieri i affanni mei,” which I refer to as E). Theme C never returns in its entirety; but E does return. Should we then hear E as the main theme of the fast section? That would make C and D together a massive transition passage. Is the passage at m. 137 (F) the beginning of an enormous coda, or the beginning of a short episode that leads to a return of the clarinet melody?

            Rather than trying to reach a definitive answer to these questions, it is more useful simply to acknowledge that in “Caro figlio” Kozeluch composed a rondò whose formal ambiguities echo those of Weigl’s “Ah se un padre.” These ambiguities in no way detract from its musical and dramatic effectiveness. On the contrary: the disorientation that we feel when the clarinet enters with a new theme at m. 121 enhances the pleasure with which we hear this charming passage.

            Although Weigl’s “Ah se un padre” was probably the most important single influence on Kozeluch in composing a rondò for Ferrarese, the Bohemian master also paid tribute to arias that other Viennese composers wrote for the prima donna. His colorful use of clarinets recalls the woodwind writing of Mozart and Salieri as well as that of Weigl; the lack of cantar di sbalzo and almost total absence of coloratura reminds us of Mozart’s “Al desio”; the single high note in the last phrase—the B flat at m. 164--recalls Mozart’s similar use of the top of Ferrarese’s range (as a single B natural) at the very end of “Per pietà.” Contributing to the extraordinarily fruitful tradition of rondò composition that developed around Ferrarese, Kozeluch wrote a scena that, in musical sophistication and emotional impact, deserves to be placed among the best of its time.



Table 1. Rondòs written for or sung by Adriana Ferrarese in Vienna, 1788-1791


Tarchi, “Ah sol bramo o mia speranza,” inserted in Martín y Soler’s L’arbore di Diana, 13 October 1788; inserted in L’ape musicale, Lent, 1989.  F major; 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, strings. Source: Tarchi, Il conte di Saldagna, Milan, Spring 1787; the aria originally in E major and with two pertichini[12]

Tarchi, “Cari oggetti del mio core,” inserted in Sarti’s Giulio Sabino (Vienna, 1785) for Luigi Marchesi; inserted in L’ape musicale, 7 March 1789 for Ferrarese. E major, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, strings. Source: Tarchi, L’Arminio (Mantua, 1785)[13]

Mozart, “Al desio di chi t’adora,” written for insertion in Le nozze di Figaro, 29 August 1789. F major; 2 basset horns, 2 bassoons, 2 horns[14]

Salieri, “Sola e mesta fra tormenti,” in La cifra, 11 December 1789. F major; 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, strings[15]  

Mozart, “Per pietà ben mio perdona,” in Cosi fan tutte, 20 January 1790. E major; 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, strings[16]

Weigl, “Ah se un padre all’infelice,” written for insertion in Paisiello’s Nina, 13 April 1790; later inserted in La pastorella nobile (under the title “Ah se un core all’infedele”), 24 May 1790. E flat major[17]

Cimarosa, “Ah brillar la nuova aurora,” inserted into Paisiello’s La molinara, 13 November 1790; later inserted into L’ape musicale rinnuovata, Lent, 1791, with the words “Ah mirar la bella aurora.” G major. Originally in A major, with the text “Ah tornar la bella aurora.” Source: Cimarosa, La vergine del sole, St. Petersburg, ca. 1789[18]

Kozeluch, “Caro figlio, questo addio,” written for insertion in Moisè in Egitto, 22-23 December 1790. Eb major; 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, strings



 Table 2. Permutations of form in rondòs written for Ferrarese


A  =  main theme of slow section

C  =  main theme of fast section

x   =  transition


Mozart, “Al desio di chi t’adora”


[Larghetto]                                    Allegro

A - B - A                                    x  -  C  -  D  -  C  -  coda           



Salieri, “Sola e mesta fra tormenti”


Un poco lento                        Allegro - Non tanto allegro - Più allegro           

A - B - A                                  C  -  D  -  C  -  coda



Mozart, “Per pietà ben mio perdona”


Adagio                                    Allegro moderato

A - B - A                                    C  -  D  -  C  -  coda



Weigl,  “Ah se un padre a un’infelice”


Larghetto                                    Allegro

A - B - A                                    x  -  C  -  D  -  x  -  C  -  coda

                                       or            C   -   D     -  C   -     coda



Table 3. Kozeluch’s “Caro figlio questo addio”




Tempo             Larghetto                                 Allegro


                        A            B            A                     C             D             E–C’        F–C’’         E–C’’’

                                                         or…            x                              C              D                  C’


Lines                1–4   5–8          1–4                  9–10       11–12      7–8,          7–8,         7–8,    

                                                                                            5–6          9–10         9–10       11–12 


Measures        59–69  69–84   85–95            99–106   106–20  121–33  133–45   145–171                 



A                     main theme of Larghetto

B                      episode in Larghetto

C                      main theme of Allegro             or…            x                  transition

D                     episode in Allegro

E–C’                                                                or…             C                 main theme of Allegro

F-C’’                coda                                         or…            D                 episode in Allegro

E–C’’’                                                               or…            C                   return of main theme





[1] On Ferrarese see John A. Rice, “Rondò vocali di Salieri e Mozart per Adriana Ferrarese” I vicini di Mozart, ed. Maria Teresa Muraro and David Bryant, 2 vols.  (Florence: Olschki, 1989), I: 185–209; Patricia Lewy Gidwitz, “Mozart’s Fiordiligi: Adriana Ferrarese del Bene, Cambridge Opera Journal 8 (1996): 199-214; John A. Rice, Antonio Salieri and Viennese Opera (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 427–29, 449–57, 479–87; and Lorenzo Nassimbeni, Paganini, Rossini e La Ferrarese: Presenze musicali in Friuli fra Settecento e Ottocento, Udine: Biblioteca Civica V. Joppi, 1999. I would like to thank Dorothea Link and Marita McClymonds for sending me copies of some of the arias that I examined in the course of this study. I am also grateful to Daniel Heartz and Marino Nahon for sharing with me their thoughts on Kozeluch’s rondò.

[2] Lorenzo Da Ponte, Libretti viennesi, ed. Lorenzo della Chà, 2 vols. (Parma: Ugo Guanda), II: 1249–50.

[3] For further information on these arias and bibliographical references see Table 1.

[4] For an assessment and synthesis of previous research on the rondò that also contributes much that is new, see Marino Nahon, “Le origini del rondò vocale a due tempi: Tempo musicale e tempo scenico nell’aria seria tardosettecentesca,” Musica e Storia 1 (2005): 25–82.

[5] Breaking with the tradition of placing the prima donna’s rondò shortly before the finale of the last act of an opera buffa, Da Ponte and Weigl placed “Ah se un padre” at the end of act 1 of their reworking of Nina, where it replaces Paisiello’s finale (Da Ponte, Libretti viennesi II: 1344).

[6] Dorothea Link, The National Court Theatre in Mozart’s Vienna: Sources and Documents, 1783–1792 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998), 151–2.

[7] Rice, Emperor and Impresario: Leopold II and the Transformation of Viennese Musical Theater, 1790–1792, PhD. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1987, 124–31.

[8] Mary Sue Morrow, Concert Life in Haydn’s Vienna: Aspects of a Developing Musical and Social Institution (Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon, 1989), 275, 269.

[9] Vienna, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Ms. III 7947.

[10] Milan Postolka, Leopold Kozeluh: Zivot a dílo (Prague: Státní hudební vydavatelství, 1964), 301–3. In the fine recording of Moisè in Egitto made under the direction of Hermann Max (CPO 999 948-2), Simone Kermes sings both of Merimè’s arias, one after the other. While we must be grateful to Max and Kermes for this wealth of music, Kozeluch could not have intended both arias to be sung in the same performance.

[11] Postolka, Kozeluh, 316, 360.

[12] Marita McClymonds, “Two Early Romantic Operas with Iberian Roots: Il conte di Saldagna and Ines de Castro,” Revista de musicología 16 (1993): 3089–100; Mary Hunter, The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozart’s Vienna: A Poetics of Entertainment (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 252, 256; Da Ponte, Libretti viennesi II: 941–42.

[13] Richard Armbruster, “Salieri, Mozart und die Wiener Fassung des Giulio Sabino von Giuseppe Sarti: Opera seria und ‘Rondo-Mode’ an der italienischen Oper Joseph II.” Studien zur Musikwissenschaft 45 (1996): 133–66.

[14] Rice, “Rondò vocali,” 190–93; Janet K. Page and Dexter Edge, “A Newly Uncovered Autograph Sketch for Mozart’s ‘Al desio di chi t’adora’ K. 577,” Musical Times 132 (1991): 601-6; Gidwitz, “Mozart’s Fiordiligi,” 209–10; Rice, Salieri, 479–82; and Roger Parker, Remaking the Song: Operatic Visions and Revisions from Handel to Berio (Berkelety, CA: University of California Press, 2006), 42–66.

[15] Rice, “Rondò vocali,” 193–200; Gidwitz, “Mozart’s Fiordiligi,” 206–7; and Rice, Salieri, 483–86.

[16] Rice, “Rondò vocali,” 200–207; Gidwitz, “Mozart’s Fiordiligi,” 213–14; Bruce Alan Brown, W. A. Mozart: Così fan tutte (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 132–35; and Rice, Salieri, 486–87.

[17] Rice, Emperor and Impresario, 124–31.

[18] Rice, Emperor and Impresario, 137–38.