Mozart’s Perspective of Women
In Mozart’s time (the late 1700s), women were viewed much differently than they are viewed today. Women were perceived as being inferior (intellectually and physically) to men. As we all know, the women were supposed to spend their time in the house cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the children. Although, we must take into account that this was mostly the biased perspective of the men of the time. As time progressed, the submissive female role changed. Their presence became much more prevalent as time went on. Mozart’s apparent personal perspective of women, which was demonstrated in his many operas, did not seem to correlate with the universal perspective of woman at the time. His perspective of women portrayed in The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni is much more like today’s perspective than the perspective of his time.
In The Marriage of Figaro, the women are portrayed as intelligent, cunning, wise, and faithful. In The Marriage of Figaro, the women are presented with the problem of dealing with their jealous and lustful husbands. Ironically, it is the lower class woman, Susanna, who provides the needed leadership and wisdom when it comes to solving the problem. She is the one that comes up with the idea to change clothes with the Countess to test the fidelity and loyalty of the Count. It might have been expected for a man to come up with a plan so clever, or at least for the upper class and supposedly more intelligent Countess to come up with the idea, but low and behold, the lowly servant comes through with the great idea. In comparison with the males in the opera, the women are portrayed with much more fidelity and loyalty especially towards their spouses. The men are portrayed as foolish, lustful, and jealous when it comes to love. The Count is the worst – he displays lustfulness, jealousy and above all, hypocrisy. He lusts after Susanna and expects her to break her promise of fidelity to her fianc Figaro. He also gets jealous when Cherubino tries to court the Countess. By doing this, he creates a double standard for him and the Countess. He feels that he should be allowed to act unfaithfully, while his wife is to remain completely faithful. The Count also portrays a very deceitful side when tries to entice Susanna. He puts on a faade just to convince her to sleep with him. Susanna’s also portrays a somewhat deceitful side, although hers is there to expose the deceitfulness of the Count.
In Don Giovanni, the women in the opera are portrayed somewhat, although not entirely different than they are in The Marriage of Figaro. They do not seem to be on the same level of wisdom and intelligence as they were in Don Giovanni. On the other hand, the men are also portrayed as much more evil and deceptive as well. The women were portrayed as being very emotional in Don Giovanni. Donna Anna is the most emotional character in the opera. She is very vengeful (rightly so) when it comes to her father’s death and very vengeful toward the murderer himself. This distressfulness is most evident in the scene when she gives the account of the night of the murder to her husband Don Ottavio. We don’t see any of the male characters display this kind of free emotion. Donna Elvira, the ex-fianc, is another one of the main female characters in the opera. She is also a very emotional character. When she meets Don Giovanni in the opera, she exhibits a great amount of sadness and despair towards her former lover. She is also portrayed as being very nave when it comes to the reputation and intentions of Don Giovanni. She is easily deceived by Don Giovanni’s false promises and empty flattery. Even though he had already left her once, she is foolish enough to believe him again. And in the end, it turns out (as expected) that Don Giovanni’s promises and words of flattery were all just a total sham. The audience watches as Donna Elvira is yet again duped by her former lover. Zerlina’s situation is very similar to that of Donna Elvira. She is wooed by Don Giovanni and convinced by his false promises. She is also nave as to his intentions towards the opposite sex. She is unaware that Don Giovanni has a reputation of being deceitful, shrewd, and very persuasive when it comes to convincing women that he loves them.
Mozart’s perspective of women is displayed in the characters of the women in his operas. He therefore perceives women the way the audience would have perceived the women in his operas. For that reason, he perceived women as very intelligent, wise, and emotional people. One has to wonder just how different Mozart’s perspective of women was compared to that of the current time. If the two varied greatly, what kind of response did Mozart’s numerous operas (especially the two in question: The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni) receive from the audience? Did they appreciate the unusual female perspective or did they frown upon it? Did they welcome the change as comedic or consider it appalling because it was different?
Mozart’s Perspective of Women