Il sogno di Scipione, Opera by W. A. Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is one of the most famous and prolific classical composers the world has known, and yet there are still undiscovered gems in his extensive catalogue. Il sogno di Scipione (or Scipio’s Dream) is one of those early works that carry all the hallmarks of the genius Mozart but lack the wide appeal of his later output. This season, Venice’s Teatro Malibran lets you discover an early side of the Austrian composer that will surprise and enchant you!
Il sogno di Scipione was intended as a tribute to Mozart’s patron, Sigismund, Prince Archbishop von Schrattenbach. The composer, then merely 15 years old, took inspiration from Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis and teamed up with Pietro Metastasio, who created an Italian libretto based on the Roman original. Mozart’s vibrant and imaginative score brings the moral of the story across beautifully and demonstrates his distinctive talent for musical dramatisation.
In Il sogno di Scipione, we go back to the ancient North African Kingdom of Eastern Numidia where Scipio, a Roman consul and strategist, is on an important military mission. A wonderful dream befalls him: he finds himself in the Temple of Heaven, among many fallen heroes and deities. Two goddesses, Fortuna and Constanza, approach him and offer their assistance for the upcoming battle. However, he must choose only one.
Initially torn between Fortuna’s power to corrupt, create and destroy and Constanza’s virtuousness, stability and fairness, Scipio chooses the latter and, thus, confirms that he is a good statesman and an honest person, dedicated to the eternal values of the kingdom of heaven. Mozart intended Scipio as an allegorical character for his patron as the final recitative makes clear.
Despite his notable productivity, Mozart could not complete Il sogno di Scipione before Schrattenbach’s death. The work was then re-dedicated to his successor, Count Colloredo, and given a partial premiere on 1 May 1772 at the Archbishop’s Palace in Salzburg. Overshadowed by Mozart’s later, greater successes, Il sogno di Scipione most probably did not see a full performance until as late as 1979, with isolated revivals thereafter.
The short form aside, this one-act opera, or “azione teatrale”, contains all elements of Mozart’s greatness. The orchestra is dynamic and engaging, the arias have memorable, graceful melodies, and the choruses are powerful and evocative. With Il sogno di Scipione, Venice’s Teatro Malibran allows a wonderful glimpse into Mozart’s developing operatic style.