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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Bastian and Bastienne, Overture

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: a “social contract” is okay, but opera singers prefer the real thing…

Mozart’s “Bastien and Bastienne” is connected to two very different philosophers. One, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was the author of “The Social Contract” and an important Enlightenment thinker. Rousseau also wrote an opera of his own—“The Village Soothsayer”—from which the libretto of “Bastien and Bastienne” was adapted. The other philosopher was Franz Anton Mesmer, at whose home the work premiered. While Rousseau is still considered an influential thinker today, Mesmer’s “natural philosophy” of animal magnetism has been largely disproven, and was even parodied by Mozart himself, years later, in “Cosí fan tutte.” “Bastein and Bastienne” hasn’t attracted the same attention as Mozart’s mature works, as it was composed when Mozart was twelve. An exception, however, is the overture, which has frequently been noted for its (probably coincidental) similarity to Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony!

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