Constanze Mozart (with Kristin Franseen)

This season on Vulgar History, we’re investigating the question How Do You Solve A Problem Like Marie Antoinette? To do so, we’re looking at the lives of women who lived during the revolutionary era of the 18th century.

This week, Kristin Franseen joins us to discuss Constanze Mozart, best known as the wife and then widow of Amadeus Mozart.

Learn about the Grove Music Online website of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Project

Kristin’s references:

Mozart’s Women: His Family, His Friends, His Music by Jane Glover

1791: Mozart’s Last Year by H.C. Robbins Landon

“Salieri’s Cosi fan tutte” by Bruce Alan Brown and John Rice, Cambridge Opera Journal 8, no. 1

Mozart’s Letters, Mozart’s Life edited by Robert Spaethling

A Mozart Pilgrimage by Vincent and Mary Novellos

Operation Olive Branch

Operation Olive Branch Instagram

Operation Olive Branch TikTok

Get 15% off all the gorgeous jewellery and accessories at or go to and use code VULGAR at checkout

Get Vulgar History merch at (best for US shipping) and (better for international shipping)

Support Vulgar History on Patreon 

Vulgar History is an affiliate of, which means that a small percentage of any books you click through and purchase will come back to Vulgar History as a commission. Use this link to shop there and support Vulgar History.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Vulgar History Podcast

Constanze Mozart (with Kristin Franseen)

May 22, 2024

Hi everyone, before we get into today’s episode, I would like to shout out Operation Olive Branch. Operation Olive Branch is a volunteer-powered grassroots collective effort to connect with and amplify Palestinian voices in an effort to support their critical needs which include but are not limited to their mutual aid requests. Operation Olive Branch has collected the mutual aid campaign information of over 800 families on a detailed spreadsheet in hopes of enhancing the family’s accessibility and reach to potential donors and advocates. These pre-existing campaigns are created and managed by the families themselves. Operation Olive Branch’s role is simply to amplify them. The other leg of their operation occurs on social media where a growing number of advocates share their privilege and reach by making videos and hosting livestreams to raise funds for these families. You can find this spreadsheet of mutual aid requests as well as more information about Operation Olive Branch @OperationOliveBranch on Instagram and TikTok or visit LinkTree/OpOliveBranch. I’ve put these links in the show notes for this episode as well. 

Hello and welcome to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. My name is Ann Foster and I wanted to shout out – I should have done it last week, but I forgot to – the new theme music that we have for this season. We’re stepping lots of things up this season, we have new beautiful artwork by Deborah Wong, and we have a new theme song performed by actual musicians. So, they are a group called the Severn Duo. For the first, what, four years of Vulgar History it was kind of, I don’t know, it was just a clip art piece of music that I chose when I did the first episode and that became the theme song of the show. I know, there are so many podcasts I listen to that have theme music and I find it reassuring so I hope that this one feels like the old one but is stepped up in this beautiful way by the Severn Duo, who are a group based in the UK and they can play at your wedding, they can do recorded music for you. You go to to learn more about them. 

Also, it was important to me as we were getting ready for this season to take the opportunity to extend the overall framework of this show, which is really real human people doing work, to the music as well. So, in terms of that, Aveline Malek from The Wordary is a real human being who I get to do the transcripts which you can find at, like a say at the end of every episode. Christina Lumague is a real person doing the editing and also, all of the artwork that I have on merch in our two merch stores is designed by human artists. You know, there are so many things coming out right now, people talking about AI and what can it do to help and stuff. It’s always been important to me to support real people and now that extends to the theme song as well. 

Oh, and I will also say in terms of crediting people where credit is appropriate. So, the picture that we have for this season is of my face, which you might not be familiar with my face or what I look like, but you are because it’s always incorporated into the artwork of this show. So, took my face and put it over a famous painting of Marie Antoinette. So again, Deborah Wong is the artist who did the artwork of me and if you want to see the complete artwork that Deborah did, if you go to on your computer, it’s the header image. So, it’s me looking like Marie Antoinette, eating some cake, there are five cakes in front of me, my cat Hepburn is there, it’s a beautiful piece of work. And it was inspired by a real human artist whose name was Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, who was a contemporary of Marie Antoinette, they were pals. 

So, Marie Antoinette, ostensibly, the patron saint of this season, the theme of this season, and I do mean that she is, that’s why it’s one of her portraits that inspired this artwork that we have because everything is building up to telling Marie Antoinette’s story but her story is so intimately connected with what was happening around the world, like the French Revolution, and the French Revolution was inspired by other revolutions that were happening in other places and that’s why we’re looking at not Versailles, we’re not talking about that time she did cosplay as a young shepherdess, although we are going to be getting into that stuff in later episodes. If you’re like, “But I want to hear about Marie Antoinette NOW!” I do recommend, some of my podcast friends Katy and Nathan from the Queens Podcast – if you don’t listen to them, it’s got a very similar vibe to Vulgar History except there’s two of them talking so twice as fun – they did a really good episode about Marie Antoinette several years ago, debunking a lot of stuff about her and celebrating who she really was. So, we’re going to get there eventually but it’s going to be a lengthy journée

So, we have done similar sorts of things on this podcast although this is again, season seven and things are stepping up in different ways. I did the Mary, Queen of Scots series, I did the Lady Jane Grey series, so the closer we get to Marie Antoinette, the more it’s going to be similar to those series where we look at her family and her friends. But we’re starting out pretty far-flung, just kind of being like, the world, the society. If somebody was doing a biographical podcast about me, they’d be like, she lives in Saskatoon in Canada, they might want to start with the founding of Canada or the fur trade, just to establish what is this world that I live in, what does it look like? And Marie Antoinette is similar. 

Speaking of previous seasons that we’ve done… So, season, I think three, was Lady Jane Grey, How To Lose A Queen in Nine Days and there’s a new series, I believe it’s on Amazon Prime, called My Lady Jane, which is based on a book that sort of takes Lady Jane Grey’s story and gives it kind of a whimsical supernatural, The Princess Bride sort of vibe. Anyway, there’s a TV show. So, I love to see Lady Jane Grey having a whole TV show about her. Some of the teaser art they have about it showed her standing with her sisters, Lady Katherine Grey, Lady Mary Grey, heroines we’ve also talked about on this podcast before. Recently, another previous Vulgar History heroine, La Chevalière d’Éon, made quite a substantive appearance on the TV show Franklin about Benjamin Franklin starring Michael Douglas on Apple TV+. And then also, in June, next month, there’s a new movie coming out called Firebrand, which is the story of Catherine Parr, who we’ve also talked about on Vulgar History, she’s the sixth wife of Henry VIII and also Anne Askew, who we’ve talked about on the podcast is in this movie.

So, it’s a beautiful time for Vulgar History’s subjects who are often not the most famous of women, to suddenly be on TV and movies and one loves to see it. Every time one of my girls is on a TV show or movie, it just makes me so happy. So, I’m hoping still, one day, I mean, I will lose my mind if and when there’s a Fredegund versus Brunhild TV show. Oh! I forgot to say, in terms of Vulgar History heroines being on things, there’s a show on Stars that just wrapped up, Mary & George, this very audacious and fun and sexy TV series starring Julianne Moore and Nicholas Galitzine, which features in several episodes, Frances Howard, the original fairy godmother of the show, so she’s on there as well. So, it’s great. 

And that connects with today’s topic which is Constanze Mozart, who appears in a movie called Amadeus because Constanze Mozart, famous last name, was the wife and then widow of Amadeus Mozart. In the movie Amadeus, she made quite an effect on me. I watched that movie a couple of years ago as part of the Patreon series that I do called Vulgarpiece Theatre where my friends Lana and Allison and I watch a costume drama and then talk about it and have a nice time. Constanze’s role in that was she was fun and cute and flirty, very low-cut gowns, very tits-out sort of attitude, but I’ve never really learned about what she was like at all. I do want to mention, in terms of that, in terms of the Amadeus, Vulgarpiece Theatre episode, if after you listen to this you want to hear my take on that movie, that is available on Patreon for anyone who pledges at least $5 or more, you can hear that and all the other episodes of Vulgarpiece Theatre

Anyway… So, today’s guest, talking about Constanze Mozart is Kristin Franseen and it was a beautiful moment of synchronicity when I was working on planning this season. Actually, she reached out to me saying “Hey, I’ve just updated this encyclopedia entry about Constanze Mozart, is that someone you’d like to have on the podcast?” And I thought, that’s exactly the sort of person I want to talk about this season which is kind of a lesser-known woman who was living during the 18th century, this revolutionary era, and also who is connected to Marie Antoinette in ways that we’re going to get to at the end of this episode.

So, Kristin was a postdoctoral fellow in history at Concordia University, she’s an alumni of McGill University in musicology. One of her specialties is gossip in music history. When I read that when she first reached out to me, I was like, had I known when I was doing my undergraduate degree in history that you could then go on to specialize in gossip in music history, or like one of my previous guests did her PhD in bushranging and banditry. I didn’t know, but now you know. If anyone out there is a history bachelor’s student, choose something real weird and you can do a master’s in it, or even a PhD in it! Anyway, she explains her research interest a lot better than I just did in the episode. 

One final caution, I guess, I’m going to say… Coming up in this episode, I draw a parallel between the story of Constanze Mozart and the 1976 BBC miniseries, I, Claudius, which I was watching and obsessing over while I was preparing this season. It has nothing to do with Marie Antoinette, that just happens to be the TV show that I was finding comfort in while I was recording this. So, it’s a 1976 British miniseries available on the Acorn streaming service, it’s about the Ancient Roman royal family, so like Augustus, Tiberius, Livia, Agrippina, who has been in Vulgar History so I guess I could kind of count that for myself as an appearance of a Vulgar History girlie. 

Anyway, I wanted to clarify what that is because in several episodes coming up this season, including this one, I’m going to drop into conversation comparisons to I, Claudius. You might be like, “What is she talking about?” But now you know what I’m talking about. And in fact, if you look up on Instagram, I made a bingo sheet for Season 7 Part 1 of Vulgar History and one of the squares is in fact, “Ann brings up I, Claudius,” this is why I’m preparing you. I’m going to bring this up at unexpected times, [Hepburn meows] various episodes… I don’t know if you can hear that, that’s Hepburn my cat, the famous cat from the image at Patreon.con/AnnFosterWriter, it’s a really good likeness of her. Anyway, she’s really excited. Here’s Kristin Franseen talking about Constanze Mozart. 


Ann: So, I’m joined today by Kristin Franseen to talk about Constanze Mozart. She has a lot more names than that but we’re just going to go with Constanze Mozart. Welcome, Kristin. 

Kristin: Thank you! Thank you for having me, this is fun.

Ann: Yeah! Can you first, well actually, you were the one who approached me to suggest this, so I’m excited you’re here because it fits in so perfectly with the theme of this season. Can you explain your interest in Constanze Mozart, how you first started reading up on her?

Kristin: Yeah! So, I work on the history of gossip and anecdote in classical music.

Ann: First of all, amazing. That’s amazing. [Kristin chuckles] I keep finding historians who have these specialties where I’m like, “If I had known that you could specialize like that when I was an undergraduate, I might have made different choices.” Okay, so the history of gossip and anecdote.

Kristin: Yeah, I did not know that this was something you could do and then I was writing my dissertation on early 20th century, queer writings on 18th and 19th-century music, and I kept running into all of these folks in, like, 1910 who were sharing gossip about composers and singers and different things and I’m like, “How do I write about this?” Because it’s not really a traditionally accepted historical source, they’re just sort of talking and sharing stories. Many of them are not true. So yeah, I got very into reading about how different fields approach gossip and anecdote and speculation and all of these, sort of, unreliable sources and that got me thinking about what to do after grad school and after turning the dissertation into a book. 

I’ve always had an interest in 18th-century music and my master’s thesis was on one of Salieri’s operas and I was like, “Okay, great, I’m going to start this new project on Salieri and the history of gossip in composer biography.” And of course, if you’re reading anything about Mozart’s biographical history, Salieri plays a big role but also Constanze plays a big role, specifically in the spread of a lot of stories and rumours and accounts of Mozart’s life because she outlived him for so many decades, as we’ll talk about. She was really involved in this industry that was kind of taking off at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century in public interest, in stories about famous musicians. 

So yeah, I got really interested in how she fit into all of that, all the things I was reading about, where some of these stories came from, and I also was really interested in the fact that many of the people who were publishing and sharing these anecdotes were men who were friends of various composers or former students who were, sort of, decades after-the-fact saying, “I knew so and so. I knew Beethoven, I knew Schubert,” different 19th-century folks. And Constanze is a really interesting case because there is this sense of preserving her husband’s legacy and I think that’s part of why she’s had the sort of complicated posthumous reputation that she’s had because she knew Mozart as sort of a messy individual that she married and had a relationship with in her twenties and then after his death, saw him become this very mythologized figure and that had to be weird. I think about that a lot. A lot of these rumours and stories that we hear – particularly about Mozart, but sometimes about other composers of this time period as well – a lot of them are emerging when people who knew these guys are still alive and still active and, in some cases, taking part in sharing their stories. 

So yeah, I think it’s fair to be very skeptical of a lot of the things Constanze says when she’s interviewed in the 1820s about Mozart because it’s been a few decades and there’s been various accumulated myths and stories and rumours and everything. But yeah, I also think it’s interesting to think about, where is her agency in this process? How did she go from becoming this widow who is sharing these stories to the subject of things like Amadeus and various other fictions, where her character is also heavily dramatized and fictionalized and reinterpreted over the decades?

Ann: Yeah, I was just going to mention Amadeus. As part of this podcast, I do a series on Patreon where we talk about costume dramas and talk about them, and Amadeus was one of the first films we did so my knowledge of the life of Mozart, Salieri, and Constanze, comes entirely from that movie, I’ve never read up on any of them. So, I’m like, “That was the story! [laughs] That’s what it was like.” 

Kristin: It’s a fascinating thing that definitely sort of fits into this larger trajectory of how all of their stories have been told. 

Ann: And I think, Amadeus, it’s a movie from, I forget when exactly, but it’s the early ‘80s. So, it’s an older movie at this point but I think it really set the scene for people like myself, just casual people who are into it, they’re like, “Okay! Now I know the story of Mozart, Salieri and Constanze because I watched that movie.” It set an understanding for I think a generation of people being like, “Okay, that’s what it was.”

Kristin: I think Seth Myers has a recurring joke on, is it Late Night? It comes up now and then where it’s like, “Oh, you have a substitute teacher in high school, guess we’re going to watch Amadeus.” [laughs] Yeah, I just saw Sky TV is making a miniseries based on Amadeus, like this year.

Ann: Oh okay!

Kristin: For the 40th anniversary of the film, they’re doing a limited series and they’re very much advertising it as being about Mozart and Salieri and Constanze. So, I’m very interested how it will expand upon things in the film and the play.

Ann: Yeah. Also, just coming to… because if it’s based on the– Amadeus, listeners, it was a play that was made into a movie that reimagines the life of Mozart and his rivalry with Salieri, who was another composer, making it a dramatic story, I’m sure making stuff up, taking some of the stuff you’re talking about, the gossip and the legends and really playing them as if they’re true. So, it’ll be interesting to see a new adaptation, if it’s an adaptation of that same play it’s going to hit the same story beats, I would imagine. 

Kristin: Yeah, I’m very curious what they’ll do. Yeah, just to, sort of, build on your explanation there, it’s a fascinating play and in this larger project that’s mostly about Salieri, I’ve sort of been in denial whenever I apply for grants and things about like, “No, there’s way more to it than just Amadeus, there’s this whole history of fictions and anecdotes and gossip and things.” But there will be a chapter in the book I’m working on about Peter Shaffer, the playwright who wrote Amadeus and adapted it for the film. He wrote a number of essays and interviews and things about his research process and the process of writing historical fiction and what do you play up for dramatic effect and how do you change things? I think it’s because it’s had this long history as a play and a film and now this new adaptation, it still frequently gets performed in various theatres, I just saw it in Salzburg back in January.

Ann: Oh, in Salzburg!

Kristin: In Salzburg, yeah. Because it has the staying power, I think there’s the risk, as you mentioned, that people watch and they’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s how things were in the 1780s,” but there’s also the opportunity to think about, how does historical fiction work? And how do these rumours work in different contexts?

Ann: Well, and this is part of what’s really interesting to me about the way that you’ve described your research and everything because a lot of, especially this season where I’m looking at some Native American stories and things like that, oral history, the oral history of enslaved people and how their families, through oral storytelling would continue on, and also how “the great men of history,” can be very careful about writing their legacies and not writing down some other things so you have to rely on things like gossip when you’re looking at, for instance, Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings, he never wrote about that but there are so many gossip– So, some gossip stuff is made up but also, sometimes that’s the way to get some information, some truth that is not being recorded in other ways. So, that’s such an interesting thing. 

Kristin: Yeah, and I think Constanze falls kind of in between those kind of things. On the one hand, she is the one protecting the legacy and deciding what to share and what not to share. There are things, there are letters, Mozart’s letters, there are some that she chooses not to have published, there are others that she surprisingly does but she also was there and is clearly aware of public interest in anecdotal stories that are impossible to back up about how Mozart wrote specific operas and things. He didn’t write about some of that so she’s saying, “We were sitting at home drinking punch, and he was writing the overture to Don Giovanni,” or something and it’s like, well, that’s impossible to verify. I don’t know if that happened. [giggles]

Ann: Exactly and that’s why I’ve been really, especially this season, some of the stories that I was just giving as examples, I’m really coming to rely on oral storytelling and gossip and things like that where it’s like, well, his story can’t verify this but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. So, giving credence and respecting sometimes somebody’s personal anecdote or the oral storytelling because why not? Either that’s true or we don’t know what happened, so let’s go with this suggestion of what happened.

Kristin: Yeah, and all of these anecdotes, the ones coming from Constanze and about her and about other people, this whole economy of publishing anecdotes in the early 19th century in music publications newspapers, magazines, and things, because there’s this focus on publishing is the written down version of what was originally an oral story. And sometimes the written down version that has passed through several hands and perhaps an editor or someone thinks, “Oh, but this reminds me of this other thing that would make a better story.” So, it’s interesting because it clearly comes from the oral tradition of telling stories and anecdotes and things, but it’s also mediated by the press, and it’s mediated by what you’re allowed to publish in different cities and different things and then how news circulates. 

Yeah, I gave a talk yesterday, here at Concordia about this British newspaper that clearly had heard that Salieri had died. He hadn’t! This was in 1823, two years before his death, but they ran an obituary. And then in the next issue, their correspondent from Vienna clearly wrote to them and was like, “Actually, he’s still alive, he’s been hospitalized, this is what’s going on…” So yeah, you have cases in the press (which is publishing these anecdotes), where news travels slowly. Sometimes there’s a lot of speculation about someone at one of these newspapers or magazines hears a story that seems authoritative, they hear from some source that they trust but they assume, “This had to be months ago or weeks ago,” depending on how fast someone gets across Europe, and “By the time we’re publishing it, this must have happened.” So, sometimes you do get wild stories about concerts and about people travelling, people being run out of town and different things because there’s this sort of speculation based on available information.

Ann: If I can really dive into the history nerd angle with you and listeners, you know what, fast forward if you want. So, I’ve been watching I, Claudius, the miniseries about Ancient Rome and stuff. So, as I’ve been watching it, I’ve been looking up, well how do we know the things? It’s very much based on this novel by Robert Graves from the 1930s, but he was pulling directly from the things that people wrote maybe a generation after the Julio-Claudians were actually around, which were people who hated the Julio-Claudians, trying to make them sound as decadent and sexually deviant as possible. And Robert Graves as like, “Okay, I’m going to take that as fact,” for his novel. So, things like facts about Caligula or something, people are like, “This is what he was like and here’s how all these people poisoned all these people.” Where it’s like, well actually, these are the sources. But just like you’re saying, those are gossip, those are biased. 

And that was something I remember, I did a history undergraduate degree and in one of the very first classes they were saying, “All history has got some bias, whoever is writing it,” and I was like, “Whaaat? It’s not objective?” Even some well-known stories or like, Cleopatra or something, it’s like, the things that were written that people accept as fact are like… Those were anecdotes, those were gossip as well but because we don’t have anything else from that long ago, we accept them as facts. So, what you’re saying about the way that these anecdotes are written down, it feels to me like the closer we get to contemporary or to modern times, the more people are like, “Well, we have to be more doubtful, is this true?” But when you go back to the classic world it’s like, “It’s true! Sure, it’s true. It’s really old. We believe it.” 

Kristin: Yeah, it’s been repeated enough times that it takes on a kind of authority. 

Ann: One of the things when you first got in touch with me and I saw that you were doing this history of gossip of stuff I was like, “This is fascinating. What an interesting thing.” Because you see that today in blind items about celebrities and stuff which some people take as truth and some of them are true and some of them aren’t true. It’s just interesting when you see how people present themselves versus what the rumours are, and the truth is somewhere in the middle… Constanze! [laughs]

Kristin: Yes, we should actually talk about Constanze.

Ann: We should talk about Constanze. I mean, we talked a lot about… She married, spoiler, she married Mozart and then she was responsible for maintaining his legacy because she outlived him for quite a while. But who was she? Where was she born? What was her family like? What’s the situation?

Kristin: Yeah, so she is born in Zell in 1762.

Ann: And that is in what is now Germany? Or Austria?

Kristin: Yeah, I believe Germany. Geography, not my strong suit. [laughs]

Ann: But also, back then it wasn’t Germany. 

Kristin: The thing is, back then – and this is something that comes up a lot in the literature on Salieri – if you speak German and you’re living in areas controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, you’re just referred to as German in the second half of the 18th century. So, there’s a lot of things I’ve been reading lately where people are talking about, “Oh yes, our great German composers.” And I’m looking and I’m like, “Well, they were born in Italy, and they were born in what’s now Czechia,” and different things but they were working in Vienna, in German so they’re German. 

Anyway, so she was born in the early 1760s, in 1762, and from a musical family, her father was a singer and a copyist and a bit later on, spoiler, Mozart is interested in one of her older sisters first. So, when Mozart first meets all of the Webers, her family, (her maiden name is Weber) he writes to his father, Leopold, that the Weber family, they kind of remind him of his own family; you’ve got this musical father and siblings who are professional musicians. The family, they’re in Zell. Some of the things I read talk about how her father, Fridolin Weber, there was some kind of scandal or something, they leave Zell and go to Mannheim and there were six kids total in the family, four daughters and two sons. The sons both died in infancy; all of the sisters lived quite long lives. 

In Mannheim, Fridolin gets a job at the court as a singer and a copyist, someone who makes the parts for the musicians to play, and her two oldest sisters, Josepha and Aloysia, become professional singers. Aloysia in particular is involved in Italian language opera which was big. And then that’s sort of her professional career is how the Webers first come into contact with Mozart. 

Ann: So, he got this job at court, great. That’s a job, he’s being paid money. But for a musician, from the movie Amadeus, I know that it can be, you’re working job to job often, when you’re a musician in this era unless you’re under the patronage of one of the monarchs or that sort of thing. So, they have these four daughters you have to raise, is that part of why they start being musicians as well, to make more money for the family? How poor are they? I guess is my question.

Kristin: They’re not poor. And I think that’s something important to stress actually about the Webers but about the Mozarts as well. Again, if you watch the movie or the play Amadeus, toward the end of Mozart’s life, they’re depicted as in a kind of extreme poverty. The thing is, in this time, I shouldn’t phrase this only in this time and place, but because of how credit works and because of how payment works – if you’re involved with the theatre if you’re paid out of the ticket sales or whatever – you can accrue quite a lot of debt and be bourgeois or middle class, class-wise, and still be getting by on credit. This is a time before debit cards. [laughs] This is a time where a lot of money moves around before it actually gets to your hand. 

So, there are letters that Mozart famously writes, asking some of his fellow masons for money and if you read them in isolation, it sounds like they’re in extreme poverty and he’s asking for these huge sums of money. And it’s like, well yeah, they have debts, and they have costs associated with Wolfgang and Constanze’s health, the children’s health, and different things but the expectation is, he’s working on an opera and when the opera takes off, he’ll be able to pay everyone back and it’s fine. And that’s just sort of how being in the theatre worked. There were similar issues earlier in the 18th century with George Frideric Handel in London. His banking records survived, so on paper there are times where it looks like he doesn’t have a lot of money but he’s living in a very fancy, very nice house and all these things and it’s because like, yeah, when the ticket sales from the theatre come in, then everybody gets paid and everything’s fine and he has cash again. 

So, there’s a couple of things going on with the Webers in this period. Fridolin does have a fairly stable job as a singer at court and as a copyist, you don’t make loads of money as a copyist, surely not as much as the composers and performers and things, but you’ll always have work. Everything needs to be written out by hand. But I do suspect that part of the reason there was this interest in encouraging the children to train in music and become singers, part of it is definitely financial. 

Part of it is also because of people like the Mozarts in the sort of, early 1760s, into the 1770s, you have this awareness of these extraordinary child musicians and this idea that, oh, the whole family can go on tour and perform and get attention and perhaps some money and connections and things. Josepha and Aloysia don’t seem to have been child prodigies to the extent that Wolfgang and Nannerl Mozart were, but they were clearly musically gifted from a young age. Singers, opera singers, then and now often begin their training and their career and their studying quite young. 

So yeah, that’s a great question about the finances. And of course, there would also be the awareness with four daughters in this period that you would be thinking about, they’re going to have to get married and there’s going to need to be some kind of arrangements made for that.

Ann: But they’re not like, street singers, you know? They’re not just like, day-to-day.

Kristin: No, no.

Ann: Like you said, the father has this stable job and they’re there and once you’re in that world, I would presume, you’re interacting with the sorts of people who would want to marry a woman who is a talented singer and who is maybe a more rich-type person, perhaps.

Kristin: Not necessarily a wealthy person but probably someone else in the arts. So, looking at the Webers… I am blanking on what Sophie, the youngest, what her husband did. But Josepha eventually marries an actor; Aloysia, spoiler alert, does not marry Mozart and marries a painter and he might act also.

Ann: I’m just looking up Sophie’s husband was a composer, tenor, and choirmaster.

Kristin: Okay, yeah. So, they all married artists. I often say when people ask how much of how Mozart and Constanze are depicted in Amadeus is true, I often say, there’s a lot of fiction but you also have to remember, these are theatre people. Think of your friend in a band or the theatre in your area. All of that kind of theatre person drama and whatnot, that was happening then too, to some extent; weird, messy relationships and breakups and things. Yeah, that is not new. 

Ann: No, exactly. So, they meet Mozart in the context of being musicians?

Kristin: Yes.

Ann: He’s like, “Oh, a family band, like my family.” He came to visit them, and he came to stay with them, is that right? He was boarding with them or something?

Kristin: Yeah, so the chronology of when he’s living with them and when he’s not is sometimes a bit hard to track. He originally met them in Mannheim in 1777. So, Mannheim had this very rich court that supported a quite famous orchestra and a theatre. So, Mozart, in the 1770s, he is a young man, he is no longer touring as a child prodigy with his sister, and he’s looking for a job. He does not especially want to stay in his hometown and work for the Prince-Archbishop there. So, he’s looking for places where he can get a stable job as a composer. So yeah, there’s this sense that great, there’s this singer he’s acquainted with that he’s kind of into, there’s this court, maybe he can get a job as a composer there. So yeah, he’s close with the family then. For a variety of reasons, some of which having to do with musical politics, some of which having to do with Leopold, Mozart’s father is not too keen on the prospect of his son rushing into marriage with this singer.

Ann: Which is Constanze’s older sister, again, just to clarify. She’s this 15-year-old, also singer, but Mozart is focusing on her older sister.

Kristin: Yes, I should clarify who Mozart is into at any given time. So, Mozart and his mother who is travelling with him, they go onto Paris to try and work some connections there. The Webers wind up, a couple of years later, moving to Vienna and part of that is for Aloysia and Josepha’s careers, part of that is Fridolin dies so the family now is very dependent on the daughters’ singing careers, so Vienna is the place where there are a number of theatres and opera companies and various things. 

So, they’re in Vienna and that’s when Mozart ends up boarding with them because he eventually gets to Vienna and yeah, again, recurring theme: looking for a job, looking for professional connections in the industry and setting up concert series and trying to make connections at the theatre. All the things you do when you’re new to a city and trying to get set up. It’s also during this time that Aloysia has gotten married to Joseph Lange, Mozart is sometimes boarding with the Webers, sometimes not, and he starts to express interest in Constanze.

Ann: Who is now, like, 19 years old.

Kristin: Yeah, she is 19. He is… Oh gosh, in his twenties, early twenties. 

Ann: Yeah.

Kristin: For once, I made a very detailed Constanze timeline, and all of my pre-existing is like…

Ann: I think he’s 28 or so because he was 24 when she was 15, and now she’s 19 so he’s mid-late twenties. He starts courting her but he’s the boarder of the family and that’s a bit like, that’s not cool, that’s not… That’s a bit unseemly.

Kristin: Yeah, it’s a bit, sort of marrying your landlady’s daughter. We talked quite a bit at the beginning about the place of gossip in how we think about all these people, and this is where we first start to get inklings in the historical record that there’s some gossip circulating. 

So, Leopold Mozart, Mozart’s father back in Salzburg, is clearly starting to hear some things that his son is having some kind of relationship with this other Weber daughter and also that his son went off to Vienna, to the big city, and is living this life. It’s unclear what happens first as far as Mozart does send a letter late in 1781, he goes on about a number of things musically and at the theatre and at the end is sort of like, “Oh yeah, by the way, I’m going to marry someone. I bet you’ll never guess who, one of the Webers.” He goes through all of the Weber sisters and is mildly dismissive about all of them and then is like, “Yes, I’ll marry Constanze.” 

At the same time, there clearly is some kind of negative gossip about Constanze’s character. It might just be that she’s living with this guy, and they’re not married yet, but there’s clearly some kind of rumours that are getting back to Salzburg because Mozart sends these letters praising Constanze’s character, “She’ll be such a good wife,” and she makes some bonnets or some kind of hat that she sends as a gift to Nannerl to try and win her over.

Ann: It says here, and again, I have your article about her open, but I also have Wikipedia open, and it says, “Constanze had permitted another young man to measure her calves in a parlour game.”

Kristin: Yes. That did happen, yes. I was going to get to that.

Ann: Ooooh! Okay, okay. I was just wondering if that was the scandal.

Kristin: That is part of it. That seems to have been more of a source of tension between Wolfgang and Constanze.

Ann: Okay, this wasn’t the thing that the dad was like, “Her calves were measured! Don’t marry her!”

Kristin: I don’t know that that story in particular got to Leopold, I’m not sure. But that is mentioned in a letter from Wolfgang to Constanze, kind of about… I don’t know, basically, “The woman I marry needs to be respectable.” Again, all of these people are like, going to parties and… The 1780s in Vienna in the artistic scene, these sorts of flirtatious party games would not have been unusual at this time.

Ann: Well, I think if you’re going to marry anyone from that community, they’re all at these parties. If you want a wife who doesn’t do this stuff, don’t marry someone from the artistic community of Vienna in the 1780s.

Kristin: And this comes up, I don’t know if this is in the Wikipedia article but it’s in the letter that Mozart wrote. So, at this party, the Baroness Waldstätten, I am pronouncing that wrong, but this noblewoman who was a friend of the Mozart family, with whom, he and Constanze for a time both lived, I believe she was the host of the party, she also took part in the same game and also had her calves measured by some party guests. Mozart kind of dismisses this as “She’s old, nobody takes that seriously.” So, yeah. This was the sort of thing that went on at parties.

Ann: Just measuring calves, whatever. Get your calves out.

Kristin: Measuring calves. Yeah, that’s… I’m amused by the specificity of this. It wasn’t just like, “They were flirting!” or something, it was specifically the calves. I think it was because you would have to lift your skirts.

Ann: I don’t know. I appreciate that detail as a lover of weird scandal. So, Mozart’s dad was like, “Eugh, are you sure you’re going to marry her?” and he’s like, “Yes.” But then he’s like “Constanze, can you not have your calves measured please?” But the courtship continues, and they do get married.

Kristin: Yes, in 1782. In the year following that, they actually visit Salzburg, so Constanze meets her father-in-law and her sister-in-law. Anna Maria, Mozart’s mother, had died during the trip to Paris so yeah, Constanze meets her surviving in-laws. It seems to go okay; she sings in a performance of a mass that Mozart writes for her to sing the soprano solo in, the C Minor Mass. 

So, it’s an interesting thing thinking about the gossip that develops around Constanze and around the Mozart family as a whole, we don’t know, and this is something a lot of Mozart biographers bring up, I’m thinking of the conductor Jane Glover has a book called Mozart’s Women that’s about Nannerl, and the Webers, and various other singers that Mozart worked with, female characters in his opera. When she’s talking about Leopold’s feelings about Constanze and about the rest of the Weber family, something she really brings up is that whenever the Mozarts and Leopold are visiting, when they come to Salzburg or a couple of years later when he comes to Vienna to visit, we don’t have their thoughts from that time because most of what we know about, in particular Leopold and Wolfgang’s thoughts from this period, are letters that they’re writing when they’re separated. So, when they’re actually in the same room, we don’t know how they felt about it. [laughs] You know?

Ann: Yeah. So, they got married and this is where, again, your article is very much thematic, the Wikipedia article is more chronological, but it skips right from “They got married” and then “He died.” But they were married for nine years. So, what do you know about that time period? 

Kristin: They’re mostly based, their home base is in Vienna where Mozart is concertizing, he’s giving a lot of solo piano concerts, he’s writing operas. Most of the operas of his that are still performed today were written for theatres in Vienna, he’s attempting to and to some extent succeeding at getting semi-permanent and then permanent positions either at court or with a church. 

The thing is, and I think the reason a lot of narratives skip from their very dramatic, very gossipy courtship to “They’re married and then Mozart dies,” is because the bulk of the anecdotes that develop later, there’s a lot of focus on the circumstances of Mozart’s death and the fact that Constanze and her younger sister Sophie were present there. So, there are lengthy accounts that get kind of semi-fictionalized in retellings about that. But what’s actually happening in the 1780s is…

Ann: What I’m seeing is she was constantly pregnant for those nine years.

Kristin: Yes. She had six children, of whom two survived to adulthood, Karl Thomas and Franz Xaver Wolfgang. This is something I think about a lot with her, when we think about her reputation and the fact that for some chunks of time in the late 1780s and early 1790s, sometimes much is made of the fact that, “Oh, she’s off at the spa, she’s off in Baden ‘taking the waters,’” as they would have said, and there are some biographers, mostly early 20th-century male biographers of Mozart, who make a big deal about, “She had these vague illnesses and she was off at the spa. She was never sick again during her second marriage,” and it’s like, she was never pregnant again during her second marriage and she was pregnant six times in her twenties so…

Ann: In an era where every time you’re pregnant, you’re taking your life in your hands because doctors aren’t washing their hands and all these things.

Kristin: Yeah! Very little sense of painkillers, which blows my mind. When we see these families, you know, where the wife or if the wife dies and the father remarries, I’m thinking of the Bachs. Johann Sebastian Bach was married twice and combined total of 20 kids. Not all of them survived to adulthood and because there was such an age difference between the older and the younger, it wasn’t like there were 20 kids in the house at the same time. But that is still… There are a lot of kids being born, someone is pregnant a lot of the time. 

Ann: And then I would think, in terms of Constanze what you’re saying, she would take the waters, she was having health issues. It’s like yeah, she was constantly pregnant for nine years, and many of the children died. She would be dealing with a combination of post-partum and literal grief constantly. It’s like yeah, good for her! Go take the waters. Take some time for yourself, please.

Kristin: And part of this is we have Wolfgang’s letters to her when she’s in Baden, which are a great source for what he’s doing in Vienna as far as the theatre. There is a lot of mention of various pieces of his that are being performed, musicians he’s working with and this sort of thing, but her responses have not survived from this period. We have letters of hers from later in her life when she was dealing with publishers and writing to her sons and various things, but we don’t have her letters to Mozart. And I think that’s a place where people have been able to read into that, what they want. If they want to see her as sort of this, either really frivolous or perhaps uncaring spouse, that her husband is writing these great operas and she’s off at the spa, you can read things that way. 

By the same token, he writes to her pretty constantly so you can also read that– and I think Rudolph Angermüller who wrote the version of the Grove Encyclopedia article that I expanded upon in my research on Constanze and gossip, he really reads these as a sign of how strong their marriage was.

Ann: Yeah, it’s just like texting you 25 times a day, to be writing letters all the time. It shows he’s thinking about her, he wants her to know what he’s up to.

Kristin: Yeah, and he trusts that she gets it. She’s also from this musical family, she knows how the opera works. There are stories about other composers, I’m thinking of Joseph Haydn, who was older than Mozart but a good friend of his and there are all of these stories about how his wife really didn’t care about music at all and wasn’t particularly interested in what her husband was writing. Clearly, at least from what we can read from Mozart’s side of things, yeah, he takes it for granted that he cares and wants to know, and she wants to be kept in the loop.

Ann: And she gets it! She knows, growing up with her dad and her family, she knows the importance of, “Oh, I applied for this job. I just got this commission, and I’m writing this.” She would know about the business side of being a musician and also the artistic side. I think in terms of a marriage, this period of time we don’t know a lot, but I think what you said, that’s really interesting, other composers didn’t have a partner who were from this world and got it. That was part of what she brought to the table, that they could be peers in that way, and she would understand what he was doing. 

Kristin: Yeah, and I think that’s one of the things that comes into play after Mozart’s death. She is able to leverage a lot of these connections. She petitions the court for a pension, and she writes to publishers about selling various scores and things he’s written. Eventually, her second husband starts writing a Mozart biography and she pulls together what papers she has as far as letters and documents and things.

Ann: I have a question. So, in his life, Mozart– Now, even people who aren’t super knowledgeable about classical music know Mozart, that’s the name. He’s such a famous person. But in his time, was he just one of many composers? It wasn’t like, “Oh my god, it’s Mozart! It’s Taylor Swift!” How famous was he?

Kristin: [laughs] I don’t know that he was quite Taylor Swift-level, but I don’t know that any composer was. Then as now, people would go to the opera to see their favourite singer. They would go to see Aloysia Lange or Caterina Cavalieri or different people. But he was famous. He was known as a child prodigy, his music was well-known, he put on various subscription concerts where people… He would organize the concert and then people would buy tickets and things. So, he was very, very well known as a composer. 

Now, there wasn’t the kind of view I think a lot of people have of folks like Mozart and Beethoven and that now, classical composers, who are sometimes considered timeless geniuses, or anything. No, at the time they were working musicians, they were people. And I think that’s important to remember. A lot of the mythmaking of, sort of like, divine inspiration and this sort of stuff, that came later. Some of that came during Constanze’s lifetime, for sure, you get some kind of very flowery writings about Mozart’s music in the 1820s and ‘30s. But at the time, yeah, I mean, there was a sense that someone like Mozart working in a variety of musical genres and writing some very popular operas and things, yeah, brilliant composer! But not necessarily, transcendent genius and not necessarily obviously more brilliant than someone like Salieri, for example.

Ann: And that’s kind of like, just to bring it back to Amadeus again, what I got from that film. At the time it’s like, Salieri, they were on par with each other. It’s like, “I’m going to go see this show, it’s by Salieri. I’m going to see this one, it’s by Mozart.” And now, Mozart is the guy, he’s so famous and Salieri is like, “Wasn’t he a character in Amadeus?” His music is not seen as timeless, as whatever. So, Mozart, I just kind of wanted to build a picture for myself. So, Constanze is kind of giving birth having children, mourning dead babies for nine years and Mozart is supporting the family, being a working, medium-famous composer guy, basically?

Kristin: Yeah.

Ann: And then he dies! Of what? [dramatic tone] Murder??? By Salieri? [laughs]

Kristin: Probably rheumatic fever. Almost certainly not murder. 

Ann: Okay, okay.

Kristin: He had been ill several times as a small child and it’s likely that he basically had some pre-existing conditions, which feels weird to think about now that we’ve all been thinking about these sorts of things since 2020, about comorbidities and things. Diagnosing historical figures is always difficult but from what I’ve read of some of the medical, historical literature, it seems likely that it was a recurrence of something he had previously suffered.

Ann: So, he fell ill and he was quite young when he died.

Kristin: He’s almost 36.

Ann: So, super young, super young. She’s slightly younger than that because she’s slightly younger than him, two surviving children, very young. And you were saying his death, there were lots of people there at his death or we have a lot of records about his death.

Kristin: We have a lot of stories about his death because a couple of things were sort of going on when he fell ill. First of all, he had just written a phenomenally successful German comic opera, The Magic Flute, so people were talking about that and singers and Emanuel Schikaneder, the actor and theatre owner, and the person who wrote the libretto, the text for The Magic Flute, you had these people stopping by. One of his sisters-in-law, Josepha, actually premiered the role of the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute. So, that aria, and I am so not going to pretend to be a singer and try and hit the high note but the very difficult German aria, that if you know one part of The Magic Flute, it’s the soprano singing this very angry-sounding…

Ann: The part where it’s like, I’m going to sing it for you… [sings melody of the recognizable portion of the Queen of the Night aria] Ahhh ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ahhh. 

Kristin: Yes, exactly.

Ann: And it goes [starts singing again, higher pitch] higher and higher. [sings a few more notes, pitch increasing] Yeah. That one. Thank you. My performance. 

Kristin: Yeah, Josepha sang that.

Ann: Okay, she had that range, she had that Mariah Carey whistle range.

Kristin: Yeah, she could pull that off. You had this theatrical success, and you also have something that has made centuries of a really good story in that Mozart also received an anonymous commission to write a Requiem, a mass for the dead. 

Ann: That’s in Amadeus. Yes, okay. I’m familiar.

Kristin: But not from Salieri, as depicted.

Ann: Salieri, evil, in a mask, impersonating his dead father? No?

Kristin: Yeah, that so did not happen.

Ann: Okay, someone else. Okay.

Kristin: The actual story of the Requiem is really bizarre in that there was this nobleman, Count Walsegg, whose wife had died, and he wanted a requiem mass to mourn, to commemorate her death and Walsegg apparently had this reputation of pretending to be a composer, which is bizarre. Apparently, he would do this, he would commission works anonymously and then once they were sent to him, he would tell the musicians who work for him, “Oh yeah, I wrote this.” And they just kind of played along. I’m sure like, you know… This guy is paying the bills, I’m sure they just played along but everybody knew. [laughs]

Ann: That he wasn’t actually… What a grift. Okay, okay.

Kristin: It gets griftier.

Ann: Woah.

Kristin: Yeah, and I think will speak to Constanze’s Scheminess score later on because… So, Mozart dies in December of 1791, and this presents Constanze with a lot of problems. I mean, her beloved husband is dead, and she has some debts to deal with and two young children to take care of.

Ann: Sorry, I just want to say, in general, she’s a woman in a world where she can’t own money or property. She can’t just be like, “Okay, well I’ll support the family as a working person.” It’s complicated.

Kristin: Yeah. And she, unlike her older sisters, has not had this established career as an opera singer so it’s not like she can say exactly, “I’ll go back to the theatre.” It’s a bit more complicated for her. Adding to this complication is the fact that there’s this piece, the Requiem that Mozart has received partial payment for, with the rest of the commission to come once a full score is delivered, and he has died, and it is not complete. So, some of this sort of negotiating may have taken place before his death as he fell ill, but some of it definitely took place after in that, okay, we need to find some other composer or composers who can wrap this stuff up, get it off to this mysterious person who has commissioned it, so that Constanze can get the rest of the commission, to get the family finances in more order. 

So, she actually works with a couple of Mozart’s colleagues, students, other composers and one of them in particular, Franz Süssmayr, who is often referred to as Mozart’s student, although I don’t know… Unlike people like Haydn and Salieri, Mozart was not extremely well known as a composition teacher; he had keyboard students that he taught piano to. In any case, Süssmayr was a composer who was sort of working with Mozart on the Requiem and was sort of a kind of family friend, family acquaintance, Constanze knew him. Supposedly, part of why she was working with him to finish the Requiem is he could imitate Mozart’s signature. So, there’s a signature by Süssmayr that is “Wolfgang Mozart, January 1792” and like, all of this, clearly, is this polite fiction to like…

Ann: Because Mozart died in December 1791.

Kristin: Yes, and everyone knew this. It’s not like it was a secret, they weren’t Weekend at Bernie’s-ing Mozart around. [both laugh] He had died. Again, he was a well-known composer, so people knew, Walsegg knew he had died. But there was this sort of, yeah, kind of a polite fiction around getting this in, getting this done and this leads to some of the kind of unreliability of the question of unreliability in some of Constanze’s later accounts because there are times when she says, “Oh yes, Mozart finished the Requiem,” and it’s like well no, he didn’t and everyone knew he didn’t, and you knew he didn’t because you were there. [giggles]

Ann: Right. That’s where, you look at what somebody wrote and you’re like, “This is written.” But just because someone wrote something, doesn’t mean it’s true or that it happened.

Kristin: Yeah. And also, for what purpose are some of these stories being written? Is this something she’s telling people in 1792 or 1795 when this is still very recent in time? Or is it 1827 and she’s sort of, building a much more grand biographical narrative?

Ann: Also, at that point, it’s like, this is accepted that he finished this so why correct… So, she’s in a situation. First of all, “Let’s finish this Requiem, get this money.” But then what are the other business sorts of decisions that she turned to? This is where I think during her time married to Mozart, she was constantly pregnant and dealing with various health things. He dies and she just switches gears to be like, “I’m going to provide for my family with business decisions.” What does that look like?

Kristin: Yeah, so throughout the 1790s, alongside and after getting the Requiem done, you have a variety of publication decisions so negotiating with some very, still quite well-known publishers like Breitkopf & Härtel, which is still around today, selling music, selling manuscripts for publication. And this is really in kind of the early days of what we might consider music copyright so this period in the end of the 18th century, beginning of the 19th century in Europe. It’s different in different countries and Napoleon makes everything more complicated because the copyright laws that develop in the Napoleonic empire as it were, were quite different from elsewhere in Europe. But you start to have the idea that the author of a musical work, the composer, and in this case, the composer’s family, has something like what we might consider moral rights to the work.

Ann: So, they should be paid when this is performed, they should get compensated. 

Kristin: When this is performed or published and for most of the history of European art music – notated, written music because obviously, we do also have oral, improvised and folk traditions that aren’t written down in this period – but for much of the history of yeah, western art music, we have music that’s written for a particular event, you know, for a feast day or for an opera commission, you’re writing for a particular theatre and particular singers. There’s often, with some significant exceptions, not necessarily the assumption that in a decade’s time, and certainly not 200 years later, that people will still want to buy this and listen to this and play it at home.

What Constanze and plenty of other composers and publishers and their families are really negotiating in the 1790s is this publishing industry, that there is an interest in Mozart’s music, generally, but specifically that, “Oh, he wrote chamber music and if you and your family play string instruments, you could play this stuff at home.” Constanze is really leveraging her husband’s fame and reputation and the professional connections that both of them had in this world to say, “This music is clearly worth something and I would like to be paid for it please.”

Ann: Yeah, I love that. Well, it’s kind of this time where you’re saying, copyright is in flux and what does it mean but she’s just like, “How am I going to make money?” It’s not like, “Oh, I’m going to start performing myself or doing more music myself.” She’s like, “No, Mozart left this legacy and I’m going to find a way to turn that into a family business.”

Kristin: Yeah. She does also perform herself. So, she and Aloysia go on a couple of concert tours in, sort of, the middle of the 1790s, sometimes performing in solo operas, sometimes giving concerts. So, there is this sense of sort of, yeah, what can she leverage as a widow and as a quite young widow with musical training and connections, to support the family. 

Also, her writings on her relationship with her sons are quite interesting and I think speak to how she’s thinking about their education because they are young. In 1791, Karl Thomas was 7, 6 or 7, and Franz Xaver Wolfgang was like, I want to say 4 months old, under a year old. 

Ann: So, she’s like, “Next generation musical family, let’s get these guys trained in music as well,” or just kind of like, broad general education?

Kristin: She sort of goes back and forth on it. So, there are times when she’s, kind of, very invested in getting them out there, possibly performing and different things. But she’s also very aware that in part because Wolfgang was so famous, so well-known and has this reputation, she seems to have been aware that there would be some kind of pressure placed on the next generation.

Ann: Like, are they going to be child prodigies too? 

Kristin: Yeah! And there’s this fascinating thing that happens. So, Karl Thomas had some early training in music and seems to have been a very keen pianist but at some point, she sort of decides, no you should go into the civil service, basically. He winds up sort of becoming a kind of accountant, a translator of government documents for the Habsburgs in Italy. So, as an adult, he’s off in Milan being an accountant.

Ann: More stable career, more stable career.

Kristin: Yeah. I think of that sort of the flip side of running away to join the circus; if your parents are artists, you want the stable job. But the younger son, Franz Xaver Wolfgang seemed to have developed some level of musical talent quite early and at some point, Constanze decides, “Yes, this is the one who will be a musician,” and he studies with some big names in Vienna, Albrechtsberger, who also taught Beethoven for a time, and Salieri, interestingly enough. And Salieri wrote him what I have described to friends and the most optimistic letter of recommendation in music history. He was applying for a job and Salieri wrote this letter basically saying, “Yes, he studied with me, and I predict that one day he will become the equal of his celebrated father,” or something and it’s like, “Oh… dear, [laughs] you can’t live up to that kind of pressure.”

Ann: If he works hard, maybe he will become good.

Kristin: Yeah, and he worked as a composer and teacher in various cities in what is now Ukraine and Lithuania. The ways in which thinking about positioning Franz Xaver Wolfgang as a composer and connecting him to people like Salieri and people like Joseph Haydn, there’s a very famous concert of Haydn’s music where Franz Xaver is like a little kid, I don’t think he’s a teenager yet at that point, but a piano concerto by him is performed. So yeah, the children’s education is important as a parent but it’s also part of this how do you negotiate the family reputation and stability and legacy? 

Ann: And part of what I’m curious to know your thoughts about, are her efforts to have a biography of Mozart completed and if that’s partially, and there doesn’t need to be just one reason, I’m sure part of it is she wants him to be known but I would guess, the more he’s known, the more valuable his, the publishing– His music might be played more often, she wants to make him more famous so to kind of make what she has, her business, the Mozart legacy, the more he’s better known, the more she can make money by having her son do concerts and selling his music. Is that part of why you would imagine she…?

Kristin: I think so. And I think it’s also realizing that as we get more into the 19th century here… So, just to situate us timewise in Constanze’s life, she meets Georg Nikolaus von Nissen, the man who will become her second husband, in the late 1790s, around 1797. They’re eventually married.

Ann: Sorry, I want to point out, initially one of her money-making ventures was she took in tenants. So, he was a tenant. Again, this is her game plan, just “Seduce a person who is a tenant in my home.” It’s worked for her twice.

Kristin: I don’t know, there was a good long time between when they met and when they got married so I don’t know the level of seduction game. [laughs]

Ann: Oh, for sure, I’m being facetious but it’s like, “This is my strategy, this is how I know to find a husband and it’s based on when someone is a tenant in my home, I get to know them really well.”

Kristin: Right. I mean, if you’re also thinking about opportunities that men and women have to socialize… [laughs]

Ann: To get to know each other, yeah.

Kristin: Yeah, absolutely. And Nissen was a diplomat from Copenhagen and was also clearly a very keen fan of music. I don’t know that he was a musician himself, but he started writing a biography of Mozart and a lot of biographers get weird about this, like, “Did she marry him and then make him write this biography?” [laughs] Speculating about, “Did he marry her because she was Mozart’s widow?” I don’t know. I don’t know that we know these things, they haven’t come up in the family letters I’ve read. 

But it is interesting thinking about, like we were saying, the resources available to the widow, the wife and the widow of a great man is sort of like, okay, it’s the early 19th century and there’s this interest in Mozart’s music but there’s also this increasing interest in biography and biographies of all sorts of people, not just royalty or saints or these sorts of things but biographies of famous musicians and this increasing curiosity about “well, I really liked this opera,” or symphony or whatever, “How was it written? What was the first performance like? Who was there? What other famous people were involved?” 

So, there are a number of biographies and biographical articles and anecdotes that get published in the early 19th century, all sorts of things and thinking about Mozart, some of which Constanze is directly contributing to where she’s telling anecdotes to people who edit or publish music newspapers and journals who are publishing them. In some cases, she seems to be selling her story in some way to different publications. But you also get people appealing to her and to some extent, Nannerl and the various other sisters-in-law as authority figures about Mozart’s life. So, you’ll get people publishing a story like “I can vouch for this because I heard it from Mozart’s widow,” or Josepha Weber, or Nannerl, and different people. So yeah, in this case, it really does seem to be that this group of women – who may not always have gotten along as people and may have, in some cases, felt various things about one another’s relationships and connections to the family – become the keeper of this legacy and are seen as having some sort of authority or approval over what is Mozart’s story? 

Ann: And through all of these business things she’s doing, does she pay off the debt and make a nice life for herself?

Kristin: Yeah, yeah. She pays off the debt, she gets into a really secure financial situation, she’s in Copenhagen for a while with Nissen, she travels to Italy to visit Karl. She winds up eventually, funnily enough, or perhaps not surprising at all given her late-in-life career, she winds up in Salzburg and she winds up living first with Nissen and for a time the children and later, with some of her sisters and people come and visit her and ask about Mozart’s life. 

There was this couple, they were British music publishers and journalists, the Novellos, Vincent and Mary Novello, and they in the 1820s – yes, I’m just checking my timeline, that I’ve got the right year – they were planning on writing their own English language biography, so they came to Salzburg to interview her and several other people. They didn’t end up writing the biography and their research notes, their interview notes were eventually published much later in the 20th century but they’re an interesting source because you get the sense of these people who are both in awe of the Mozart mythology as it’s emerging but they realize that they’re talking to, by now, much older women about these people and events decades ago in their lives.

Ann: And that’s interesting to me too to think about how Constanze… Much more of her life is not with Mozart than was with Mozart so when she’s been thinking about this and helping write these biographies and stuff, the way that anyone’s memory can change and shift and when you’re looking back you can apply importance to moments that at the time didn’t feel important and when you don’t have, you know, old Facebook statuses or old pictures or anything, it’s just your memory, or letters and things, or how her story might have changed and solidified when she got, sort of a professional job of retelling his story.

Kristin: So, just to give an example of that, there’s a story she tells the Novellos about Mozart and Salieri where she says that the rivalry between them was because Salieri was asked to write this opera with Lorenzo Da Ponte, this great poet that Mozart’s most famous Italian operas were written with. So, Salieri was asked to write this opera and he wrote a couple things for it and really couldn’t make it work so passed on the text. Mozart took it up and wrote Così fan tutte, so one of the three operas he wrote with Da Ponte. 

It’s an interesting anecdote because there really isn’t evidence for any kind of personal conflict between Mozart and Salieri. They were working in the same industry, writing for some of the same theatres and singers and both working in Italian language comic opera in Vienna. And for I think a long time, this story was sort of downplayed or critiqued in Mozart biography, not so much because of the claim of rivalry, because that has its own history as gossip, but sort of a how would… Constanze is commenting on this detail of theatrical politics and how would she know? Did Salieri really start writing it and then give up? 

Well, in the ‘90s, there’s a Salieri scholar named John Rice, who found Salieri’s sketches for a couple of numbers for the story that would later become Mozart’s Così fan tutte. So, Constanze may or may not be a reliable source on how Mozart felt about his professional colleagues. Yeah, you know, you have a bad day at work, and you vent about people, [laughs] it doesn’t mean you’re enemies for all time. But it’s interesting that this little story about who is going to write this opera, that there does seem to be documentation that like, okay, Salieri was going to write it and he, I don’t know, gave up on it or was busy with other things or whatever and now Mozart writes it.

Ann: I love the way that you describe that. People sort of discounted the story then it’s like, oh, surprise! Actually, Salieri did start writing it.

Kristin: Yeah! And I do want to stress there, just because I know there’s all this mythmaking about Mozart and Salieri, totally separate from Constanze, but just stress that that’s also how a lot of opera in the 1780s worked. Poets and composers would get commissions to write a particular piece for a particular group of singers for the next season or whatever and yeah, sometimes things wouldn’t work out and would kind of fall apart and sometimes works that people had written earlier would be reworked into new productions in different cities or in a different language. 

These things that I think a lot of people today think of as monumental, like, “This is what The Magic Flute is,” or “This is what The Marriage of Figaro is,” to think of another Mozart opera, at the time, these works were very malleable and depending on who was around, there are some famous cases of 18th-century singers kind of demanding, regardless of the rest of the opera, “I want this kind of aria because I want to show off I can sing this.” Or there’s a case, it’s a bit earlier than Mozart but there’s a case in I think London in the 1730s of a famous singer who, whenever he entered a scene, he had to be on horseback [laughs] and it did not matter if it did not make sense for the plot of the opera for the singer to enter on a horse but yeah. So, these things were very flexible and there was a lot of understanding in the theatre that you go with what worked.

Ann: So, Constanze herself, she’s in Salzburg later in life, living with some of her sisters and then she’s 82. No, 80 when she dies.

Kristin: She’s 80 when she dies.

Ann: Yeah, and she spent most of her life working on the Mozart legacy and making a business of that and very successfully, like you said, living financially comfortably.

Kristin: Yeah.

Ann: And then, well I think I want to move onto the Scandaliciousness Scale but that’s going to open up some other avenues of discussion of things I’d like to ask you about. So, these are all 0 to 10 categories. The first category is Scandaliciousness. How scandalous was she seen by the society in which she lived? I feel like there would be a different number for pre-marriage versus post-marriage.

Kristin: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this. This was actually the hardest number for me to come up with. I know how she’s thought of later in some of the literature that might rank her a bit higher, but I also know, listening to other episodes of Vulgar History, she’s definitely not a 1. She is more scandalous. I think I would say maybe a 4? She’s not extraordinarily scandalous, or at least there’s not any big, documented scandals beyond having the party guests…

Ann: Having her calf measured.

Kristin: … measure her calves when she’s engaged, and some gossip and kind of straight references and letters that possibly, she and/or Mozart may have had some affairs. But nothing is documented and a lot of it really, a lot of the speculation in that direction really feels to me like something that might be more relevant to the sexism question.

Ann: You just mentioned, and I want you to explain this. Her reputation, we’ve been talking about this woman who had fun as a young woman, she married Mozart, he died, she made these sound business decisions, but her legacy, especially in Mozart biography sort of presents her as this kind of silly, flighty airhead kind of trashy person. That’s kind of how she appears in Amadeus the movie although I appreciate her in that movie because she supports him and loves him. But how has her reputation suffered? How is she written about?

Kristin: Yeah, so it really fluctuates after her death and it really depends, I think, when you’re talking and where you’re talking. So, you get depictions of her in German and English language fiction in the 19th century where she’s depicted quite positively, she’s with Mozart while he’s writing these great operas and she’s dealing with his flighty modes as an artist and whatnot in these fictions. 

And then in the 20th century, I think as you get more, kind of, I’ll say psychological biographies, these biographies of Mozart (and other great men composers) where you have this idea that they are the great genius, nobody understands them, they’re working alone, even if they have partners and kids and siblings and all of that, but they’re alone, writing their great works that nobody understands. I think there’s a way to read Constanze in those biographies that is quite negative because she wasn’t a professional singer, and she wasn’t singlehandedly keeping the family out of debt all of the time and everything. 

There’s a way to look at Mozart and the singers, the other female musicians that Mozart would have worked with at the opera, not just Aloysia and Josepha but other people, and think, why didn’t Mozart marry a musician on his level? Or why was Constanze sick all the time? Which is 100% a case of biography being written by men because I feel like the first time, in undergrad, I took a class on women in music, and I wrote a paper for that class about Constanze. And yeah, the first time I was reading just the timeline of her life I’m like, she was pregnant all the time in her first marriage. There’s a really easy answer to “Why was she sick?” And it’s “Pregnancy in the 18th century!” 

So, you get these biographical narratives about her in the 20th century that are very much either that she wasn’t worthy of Mozart or that she didn’t know how to manage money, and part of that is kind of cynicism or skepticism about how good she gets at managing money later on and it’s like, well she’s on her own. She eventually remarries but she’s like, having to take care of herself and two children pretty suddenly. 

So yeah, you get this image of her as unworthy and I think a lot of the frivolous, for lack of a better word, silly, party girl narrative, kind of fits into that. She’s not seen as a great musician, she’s blamed for, in some of this literature, for enabling Mozart’s own frivolity which I don’t think he needed any help with. [giggles] And I could easily see, if she were, let’s say she was just always perfect at managing money, I can see an alternate universe in which she is blamed for being a shrew or controlling or whatever. There are other ways to blame women for their husbands.

Ann: Yeah, and I think it comes down, I mean, we’ll get to the Sexism score later but it’s just kind of like, people wanted… I don’t know, I don’t know. For some reason, it seems like they need Mozart to be this singular figure so the fact that he had a wife, you had to set her up as being, “He had a wife but not really, she didn’t support him, she didn’t help him.” So, you have to look at what we know about Constanze and make that seem bad, somehow.

Kristin: Yeah, and I mean, it’s totally possible that given what we know of Mozart’s love of parties and dirty jokes and all kinds of things that yeah, they had a lot of fun when they were well and not dealing with the loss of four children.

Ann: Constantly.

Kristin: Yeah. I just don’t think it’s necessarily the place of musicologists and historians to cast moral aspersions on like, was Constanze a good wife? Or was this a happy marriage?

Ann: Part of what you said earlier it’s the fact like when she was taking the waters, he wrote her lots of letters and we don’t have the responses where it’s like, “She didn’t love him back! Where are her responses?” Just taking what we see and applying psychological context to them. Where it’s like, he sent her letters, if she responded to them or not, maybe she was there dealing with profound grief and health problems. She liked getting the letters and maybe he didn’t expect a response. I don’t know, to be like, “She ignored him…” or whatever.

Kristin: I mean, because he does say, “I received your letter,” or when she doesn’t write, he comments on it, so like, she clearly was responding and whether it’s a matter of he didn’t save her letters, or she didn’t save her letters. They also moved apartments a lot so it’s totally possible that there were more and more letters that just got lost or downsized. I’m in the middle of moving right now myself so right now, my whole life is stacks of books in my apartment that I need to pack and it’s like, yeah, not everything makes every move. Not everything is going to survive a couple hundred years of history.

Ann: Well, it just seems like it’s… I see this nowadays with so many women public figures who are hated no matter what they do. If they change what they do, people are going to hate them for that. It’s not about what you do, it’s just about conceptually, people hate the concept of a powerful woman or of a woman, so they point at what you do as the things to criticize. For instance, okay, I’ll speak for myself on this podcast. There are people who don’t like the way I talk informally on the podcast. I know that there’s people who speak more scripted on podcasts and they get criticism being like, “You’re so scripted.” Where it’s like, “Oh no, you just hate a woman talking.” [chuckles]

Kristin: I’ve thought about this too because I do think it’s worth emphasizing that a lot of the anecdotes that Constanze did tell about Mozart’s life, some of them we know are false or as I said, unverifiable but she was not alone in the landscape of people marketing anecdotes about their friends or partners, the great composers, to do this. 

Also, I don’t think necessarily – definitely not in the 1790s, I don’t know about later – but she was not necessarily thinking about, “I am personally going to control the Mozart family legacy for all time.” She was involved with the creation of the Mozarteum organization, or the choir that would eventually become the Mozart research organization in Salzburg but like, sometimes people talk about her activities in promoting and preserving and controlling the family legacy as though “She just wanted to make herself look good,” and it’s like, I don’t that somebody in, let’s say 1795, is thinking about, “I want some academics in 1970 or 2024 to think well of me.” I don’t think that’s how anything worked then, I don’t think that’s how things work now.

Ann: I think she was like, “I want to pay my rent, I want to…”

Kristin: Yeah, exactly!

Ann: I think it was much more, she was thinking about herself in that time and place. 

The next category is the Scheminess which, you’ve listened to other episodes, and I’ve explained it to you but just so the listeners know, this is a positive thing: a person with a plan, a person who is able to see what life situation they’re in and they can pivot, and they can find ways to succeed rather than having life happen to them. And I feel like this would be a high score for her.

Kristin: Yeah, I’m leaning toward 9 or 10 for this. Let’s air on the side of 10.

Ann: Honestly, sure.

Kristin: Between the details of getting the Requiem done and then also getting Nissen’s book out. Her second husband also dies before finishing his great work of Mozart biography so like, getting that into the world in some form. 

But also just generally, here is someone who marries at 19, whose older sisters have these more obvious professional careers and public persona or space in the public sphere and she, after this very tragic life circumstance, finds herself mobilizing what she has, the tools that she has, the connections that she has, her own family, to make it work and to make it work quite well and to exist in the public space of people who know music and people who are curious about Mozart’s music. Some of this is the luck of when she’s around, but that she’s in a time when that is possible; when there is publishing, when there is interest in the work of music from the past few decades and that’s she’s able to mobilize that, to make use of that successfully.

Ann: Exactly. I think it is to her benefit that that was the time and place when she was alive, but another person in her situation might have wound up penniless. If someone didn’t put those dots together, if someone didn’t leverage these specific connections, I can see another narrative where she dies in debtors’ prison or something, but she didn’t. There was the luck of when she lived but also her own persistence and her intelligence.

Kristin: Yeah, and I’ve thought a bit about… No, I’ll save that for Significance.

Ann: Well, let’s move on to Significance.

Kristin: Yeah! I would say like, significance in how we think about composer biography and how we think about Mozart and why we think about Mozart the way we do, I’d give that a high rating too. I’d say 9 because so many of these stories even the ones that sometimes musicologists are like, “I don’t know if this is real,” but so many of these stories about Mozart at parties improvising music or, you know, staying up late at night, like I said, drinking punch and finishing an opera, all of this, so many of those images persist. We see them in things like Amadeus, but we also see them in things of like, how people talk about classical composers and what it means to be a famous musician in this time. 

I was going to say earlier but I think it fits better here, I’ve often wondered if Mozart lived longer, or flip side, if Constanze died younger, would we have the same image of Mozart that we do? If either he had lived long enough to sort of have a role in shaping his own legacy and not have this narrative of tragic death at a young age and all of that; or if Constanze, as you say, hadn’t been able to mobilize all of this and hadn’t been a part of this industry of music biography and musical anecdote and publishing… Yeah, what would our prevailing image be and our narrative? I think it would be quite different.

Ann: I think so too. Mozart is such a… Even, I don’t know when I first heard of Mozart, but I think I just knew, “Oh, that’s a famous composer.” There’s that thing where it’s like Baby Mozart, “Play Mozart music to your unborn children and stuff.” He is the guy. He’s the guy like Shakespeare is the guy for plays, Mozart is the guy for music and that’s largely, as you’ve been explaining so eloquently, because he died so young but also Constanze’s non-stop work. So, it’s interesting, her significance is that she solidified that legacy for him, not for herself.

Kristin: Yes, and how much of the way that legacy was then taken up winds up, in some cases, making her look bad or casting aspersions upon, “Well, why would she do this?”

Ann: So, then the final category on this scale is the Sexism Bonus, how much was her life affected, and in her case, I guess it’s also kind of her legacy, by living in this patriarchal society and sexism? In her life, just what I’m thinking based on having read your essay and talking to you now, I feel, you know, if she hadn’t been in a place where she was expected to just constantly have children for nine years, maybe her own musical career could have been more than it was, if she wasn’t busy doing that. But also, at the same point, I don’t want to take away that was in some ways her choice to do that. I don’t know.

Kristin: Yeah, I wrote down 5 because I don’t feel like, I feel like the amount of sexism she experienced in her life was sort of baseline being a married woman in Vienna in the 1780s.

Ann: Exactly, yeah.

Kristin: Yeah, but I think the place of sexism in her posthumous legacy is important to unpack and to question. There’s a really great, I’m looking at it right now, there’s a book by H.C. Robbins Landon, who was a biographer of Mozart and Haydn 1980s and ‘90s and he wrote a book called 1791: Mozart’s Last Year, where most of it is going month-by-month through 1791, explaining what documentary sources do we have for different performances and things. But there are also chapters debunking some conspiracy theories about Mozart’s death. 

There’s a chapter called, “Constanze, a vindication,” where he basically goes through a number, like, what sources we have about Constanze from her lifetime, both during Mozart’s life and after but also goes through a number of pretty formative 20th-century Mozart biographies and talks about how they depict Constanze and sort of, are these depictions, are there citations for someone claiming she had a bunch of affairs or someone claiming she was faking an illness or all these things that people say? And what he really wants to draw attention to is like, a lot of this stuff is all accumulated myth-making about what we think a great man should be like, and what we think the person he has relationships with should be like and a lot of it isn’t necessarily in the sources and doesn’t necessarily reflect how people would have thought about marriage and love and partnership in the 18th century. A lot of this stuff does seem to come from more 20th-century psychological, or what do you call it, psychoanalytical approaches to talking about artists.

Ann: It’s such an interesting, I don’t know if I’ve had anyone on the podcast where that was specifically the narrative in terms of sexism. But yeah, I think in her life, she was, I agree with a 5, just standard issue living under the patriarchy, I don’t think it especially negatively affected her in her lifetime any more than any other woman. But then she has had this weird afterlife of being this trashed woman where it’s like, to put her down to elevate Mozart is so weird. 

Kristin: It’s interesting because we’ve both alluded multiple times to the impact that the film version of Amadeus has had and how we think about all these people, all these characters in the 1780s and ‘90s. One of the parts of Amadeus that is fictional but I find really fascinating is there’s a bit early on when Mozart and Constanze are arguing about a job that Mozart is applying for or wants and is asked to submit pieces for consideration and he doesn’t want to because he just thinks he’s great and they should pick him, he shouldn’t have to apply. [chuckles] And Constanze says something like, “I know how music works in this city.” And you know, that scene and that situation is a heavily fictionalized take on what actually happened with finding a music tutor for the Princess Elizabeth. But just that depiction of Constanze as like, someone who herself is not a composer but is aware, through her sisters and through other musicians she knows, she is aware of how things work.

Ann: Yeah, she’s knowledgeable and I think in general, if you have a partnership where one person is the creative, it’s really beneficial if the other person is like, the manager, if the other person has the basic skills to like, “Let’s pay our bills. Let’s fill out this grant application.” I think it’s helpful to have that person. 

Kristin: And money does come up a lot in Mozart’s letters period, but in Mozart’s letters to Constanze. Like I said, there are multiple ways of reading this. There’s the romanticization of “They were always these impoverished artist types,” which seems to likely be an exaggeration for the reasons I mentioned. But there’s also like, “Oh! He trusts his wife to talk about money with her,” which is not something all 18th-century husbands did.

Ann: Yeah, exactly. It’s so tricky to parse out who she was and what she was like when so much of it is in the context of her relationship. But like you said, we know what he wrote to her, he’s like, “Hey, I’m writing this opera, I’m applying for this job, here are some facts about money,” and that shows that she was interested in that, and he trusted her and could rely on her to have these conversations. So, we can infer from that what she was kind of like, not having her answers, her letters to see what she said.

Kristin: Right, exactly. 

Ann: So then, because this is the Marie Antoinette/Revolutionary season, I have this new segment called Nothing But Net where I look to see, how did people connect with Marie Antoinette because I’m talking about all kinds of people from all kinds of places this season, not necessarily– [chuckles] Frankly, nobody from France in this portion of the season. I checked with you beforehand, what is the most direct way to connect Constanze to Marie Antoinette? And I think it was that when he was in his child prodigy era, Mozart performed for Marie Antoinette, right?

Kristin: He did. I think, just to remind people, Marie Antoinette herself was also not French. She was one of Maria Theresa’s many, many children. And yeah, so when the Mozarts were touring as child prodigies they performed at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. Yes, so Mozart performed for the Habsburgs, including Marie Antoinette. There’s this very adorable story that gets told a lot of times although I don’t believe it’s mentioned in any of the Habsburg family writings so people have sort of cast out on it but there’s this very cute story that child Mozart trips on a rug or something, trips in the palace and Marie Antoinette, or Antonia as she would have been known pre-marriage, helps him up, and he, as a little kid, proposes marriage to her. The story appears in all sorts of novels, and I believe it’s in Amadeus as well, it’s in the play for sure, I don’t know if it’s in the film.

Ann: They mention it in the movie, yup.

Kristin: Yeah. This is, I think a lot of people like this story because it’s cute and it opens up all sorts of like, “Oh well, what if?” And people love to what if both Mozart and Marie Antoinette as, you know, kind of potentially doomed historical figures. So, there’s that. There’s also the fact that Marie Antoinette’s brother, Joseph II, became Emperor of Austria and so when Mozart is writing operas and all of that, that’s the emperor in Amadeus

Ann: In Amadeus!

Kristin: Yes, that Mozart and Salieri are working for, that’s him. That comes up a bit too when they’re talking about Marriage of Figaro and, “My sister, Antoinette is very concerned about all of this French thing, the theatre.” So, there’s that. 

I was just thinking because we’ve talked a lot about rumour, and anecdote and gossip and things and I think it’s a more tenuous connection, all of these connections with Constanze are tenuous. But I think both of these women were the subject of anecdotes and gossip, like, during their lifetimes but also especially after, in ways that have shaped kind of indelibly how they are talked about. So, like, no matter how many times people debunk things like the “Let them eat cake” story, you still have to bring it up because you mention Marie Antoinette, and someone will think of it even if we know it’s not true.

I think with Constanze, we’re sort of grappling to some extent with her depiction in Amadeus, but I think it has a much longer history as far as how we read the anecdotes and the gossip and the stories that she spread during her lifetime and also how images of her character and her relationship with Mozart developed in the decades and centuries after her death.

Ann: So, I think Constanze’s connection specifically, directly to Marie Antoinette would be that Mozart met Marie Antoinette and also, that was the emperor. So, Constanze is connected to Mozart, Mozart is connected to Marie Antoinette; that’s two degrees of separation, effectively.

Kristin: Two degrees, yes.

Ann: Between these two but as you said, thematically, philosophically, I do think there are some similarities there. And actually, I was just adding up her score; she gets a total score of 28 on the Scandalicious Scale. There are so many people on the scale now, so I like to see where does that put her and who is similar? And a name that I kept thinking of when you were talking was Mary Shelley because she was married to Percy Shelley for relatively a short time and spent the rest of her life publishing his books and helping his legacy. She has a 29, Constanze Mozart has a 28. So, I feel like they have a similar… Mary Shelley is now remembered for her work and Constanze is not but I think both of them dedicated their post-marriage life to establishing a legacy for their husband’s work. 

Kristin: Yeah. And so much speculation, like I know with the Shelleys and with Lord Byron about, like, what were the relationships there? Yeah, there’s so much potential for gossip and yeah, that’s really interesting that she’s sort of right in there.

Ann: Exactly, they landed in a similar spot. I think where she edged ahead is Mary Shelley had more scandal because she like… [chuckles]

Kristin: Yeah, I was going to say there were no pre-existing spouses or…

Ann: No, there was no running away in a throuple when you were 16.

Kristin: Yes, yes.

Ann: Yeah, Constanze was much more of a traditional narrative, traditional sort of person.

Kristin: Yes.

Ann: Kristin, tell everybody, so first of all, the essay, the thing that you wrote about Constanze Mozart, where can people find that?

Kristin: Yeah. So, it’s in Grove Music Online which is a peer-reviewed music encyclopedia. Individual subscriptions are very expensive so I would check and see, a lot of academic and public libraries subscribe to this and what I wrote, it’s the entry on Constanze Mozart and it’s an updated and expanded version of an article that was originally written in the late-‘90s, early-2000s by Rudolph Angermüller, who was a scholar of Mozart and Salieri’s work. My contribution is the thematic, talking about gossip and talking about the role of fiction in Constanze’s posthumous legacy. 

So, Grove, as an encyclopedia has been around for well over a century, it started as a dictionary written by Sir George Grove in Britain in the late 19th century and it’s since gone through many different versions and is now online. Historically speaking, it hasn’t always had the greatest coverage of women in music history so there’s this great initiative right now where they’re trying to improve their coverage of topics related to gender and sexuality. 

So, I, in my other research project on the history of queer musicology had proposed a couple of places where either new articles could be written or existing articles could be improved and I was meeting online with a couple of the editors and they were asking, are there any other articles that you use in your teaching or your research that you think should be updated?” And just off the top of my head, I was like, “Well, I know the one on Constanze Mozart is quite a few years old, it could probably be updated.” At the time I thought for sure they would go find an established Mozart scholar to write this and they were like, “Oh, you’re working on this stuff about rumour and gossip, do you want to do it?” Which was phenomenal! I really enjoyed working on this and getting into making connections between some of the fiction and anecdote I’m working with and new developments in musicology and the biographical literature. So, that was just a great experience and I’m very glad that they’re making the effort to diversify and expand what a music encyclopedia should cover. 

Traditionally, in this encyclopedia, a lot of the entries on women connected to important men in music were like, “This person was a singer, and she sang this important role in this dude’s opera, and then she retired when she was 30 and we’re just not going to talk about that she lived for however many more years.” So yeah, I think they’re really trying to give a better sense of how people like Constanze fit into these bigger narratives of how music happens and how music history is talked about.

Ann: That’s so interesting. Good for them, frankly, good for them.

Kristin: Yeah, it’s a really great initiative.

Ann: Yeah. And do you have any, I don’t know, website or social media or anywhere if people want to connect with you or see what you’re up to?

Kristin: Yeah, so I am currently still on Twitter @MusicologyGeek and I’m trying to think, I’m on Bluesky @KMFranseen. So, if you look up Kristin Franseen, or quite frankly, if you look up Salieri operas or things… I mostly post about research I’m currently doing about Salieri and musical fiction and also occasional fun maple drinks I try in Montreal. [giggles]

Ann: Oh nice.

Kristin: I also do have a website connected to the book, which I’m blanking on the URL off the top of my head, but my book is called Imagining Musical Pasts and so if you google that and my name, the companion website to the book should come up, it’s through the Humanities Commons.

Ann: I’ll put the link in the show notes and everything. 

Kristin: Excellent. Thank you.

Ann: Is the book available or is it…?

Kristin: The book is available, it’s through Clemson University Press, it’s an academic book on the history of queer musicology and yeah, it’s currently quite expensive but in a couple of years it will be open access because there’s a program I’m participating in through JSTOR, where after three years, the eBook will be open access.

Ann: Oh wonderful. But also, a university library would be the sort of place where you could find the book.

Kristin: Yeah, a university library should get access to it. So, if you want to read more about other kinds of musical scandal and gossip, that’s available there.

Ann: That’s where that all is. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. Constanze Mozart, again, I think like a lot of people I was like, “Oh, she’s that cute, cute person in Amadeus, she’s his bubbly, sweet wife.”

Kristin: She wears very revealing dresses and likes to party. 

Ann: She has some real low-cut dresses. She’s really cute and spectacular cleavage in that movie but now it’s good to know who actual Constanze was. 

Kristin: Yeah!

Ann: Well, thank you so much for joining me today.

Kristin: Oh, thank you, this was great. 


So, to keep up with this podcast and to see what is happening and more teasers for upcoming episodes and stuff like that… Well, first of all, I do have my Patreon which I mentioned which is I am posting just kind of some discussions and stuff there. When you join the Patreon for $1 or more a month, you get to join a chat, like an episode discussion chat. I love to hear what people are thinking about this season and stuff. I’m also posting some content there, some pictures and things. You can join the Patreon for free as well or get a free seven-day trial. Anyway, I’m pushing the Patreon especially right now because I’m so close to having 600 followers on Patreon and I just like even numbers, frankly. 

So, if you pledge $5 or more a month to join the Patreon, you get access to early, ad-free episodes, did I say $1/month you also get the early, ad-free episodes? Early, ad-free episodes for any paid Patreon membership. For $5 or more you also get access to Vulgarpiece Theatre, including the Amadeus episode which I’ve talked about. And also, guess what? Coming up, an I, Claudius episode. If you want to listen to just the Amadeus episode of Vulgarpiece Theatre without joining the Patreon, you can literally just purchase that episode for $5. Anyway, that’s all at Also, the people at the $5 or more level, I have a Discord, the Vulgar History Salon Internationale where we also, I hang out there a lot and we talk about the episodes, I give some spoilers there about upcoming episodes, just in the “Spoilers” thread. You don’t have to read the spoilers. 

Anyway, I really am happy to have found some ways to connect with the listeners, with you, the tits-out brigade, because this season is, I’m trying something very new and different and yet, classic Vulgar History vibes and I’m really, really interested to see what you all think and what suggestions you have for what people you think would also fit into this theme.

I also want to mention our brand partner, Common Era Jewellery. So, I always say this, but I mean it every time, this brand partnership came together so organically. It was actually first some listeners, tits-out brigade members saw an ad for them and were like, “This made me think of you” and I was like, “This makes me think of me too!” So, Common Era Jewellery is a small business, I think there’s literally two employees working for it, and what they do is they make beautiful jewellery inspired by women of history as well as from classical mythology. And you know what? Are there some pieces inspired by some of the women in I, Claudius? Friends, yes. They have a Livia pendant and also an Agrippina pendant. They also have other people from history/classical mythology, there’s a Sappho one for all my sapphics, Medusa for all my women with snakes on their heads, Aphrodite, and then also figures from classical history like Cleopatra, Boudica, Hatshepsut is there as well. 

Anyway, so if we’re just talking about supporting human beings, this company I truly support. Torie is the owner, they make the pieces in New York City, all of their packaging is done by a little family-owned business in Chicago. I’m really happy. I love their jewellery in general, I possess a few pieces of it, but I also love the vibe and the concept and everything they’re doing. You can also stay on trend with a Marie Antoinette-type vibe with Common Era. They have, if you look up the painting Botticelli’s Daydream, which is not a Marie Antoinette-connected painting as far as I know, but it’s got a Marie Antoinette vibe and they take that painting and put it into hairbow scrunchies, it’s really lovely. Anyway, their pieces are available in solid gold as well as more affordable gold vermeil. Vulgar History listeners always get 15% off anything from Common Era by going to or using code ‘VULGAR’ at checkout.

If you want to get Vulgar History merchandise, which at this point is kind of like the Vulgar History Classique collection. I haven’t figured out yet what the season seven merch is going to be and that’s because, this is why I want to have ways to get feedback from all of you, [Hepburn meows] what do you think, because I really want to find out what concept, what’s going to really resonate with people and then I’ll find one of my artist friends to draw that up and then we’ll have merch, probably midway through the season. So anyway, if you want to get the Classique Vulgar History merch, go to if you’re in the US. If you’re not in the Americas, America… [chuckles] If you’re not in the US, go to, other people in the Americas should probably also go there. Only United States people get good shipping from Anyway, in both places, we’ve got T-shirts, we’ve got stickers, travel mugs, pins, just cute things with some phrases from past episodes of Vulgar History as well as sometimes when I get a silly review. Somebody on Apple Podcasts says I’m “Unscholarly and rambling.” You know, I hired an artist to turn that into a cute little Lisa Frank sort of design and you can get that on a T-shirt.

Anyway, I keep saying I want to be in touch with you and I do so you can send me DMs, my DMs are open on Instagram where I am @VulgarHistoryPod. Also go there for like, pictures and stuff, discussions, I put polls in stories and things like that. You can also go to, my website, where there’s a little form where you can email me if you have thoughts or questions or whatever. I also have a newsletter on Substack which is sort of a sister to this podcast. It’s not like, take the podcast and write the words and make it a newsletter, I’m talking about completely different stuff on there. But if you liked my whimsical, feminist historian vibe, maybe you want to read my newsletter too. So, that is at 

Anyway, next week, season seven continues, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Marie Antoinette: Let Them Eat Cake: Revolutione Internationale. We’re going internationale because next week, when you think of Marie Antoinette in the 18th century age of revolution, obviously you think about New Zealand, or maybe you don’t. But now you will! Because next we’re going to be talking about a tits-out woman from New Zealand history. I know there are listeners in New Zealand who have been for literal years, New Zealand listeners are some of my day-one tits-out brigade members and they’ve been politely requesting and suggesting New Zealand-based episodes for quite a while, and I was really happy to finally be able to bring you this New Zealand content. So, until next week everyone, keep your pants on and your tits out! 


Vulgar History is hosted, written, and researched by Ann Foster, that’s me! The editor is Cristina Lumague. Theme music is by the Severn Duo. The Vulgar History show image is by Deborah Wong. Transcripts are written by Aveline Malek; find transcripts of recent episodes at


Learn about the Grove Music Online website of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Project 

Kristin’s references:

Mozart’s Women: His Family, His Friends, His Music by Jane Glover

1791: Mozart’s Last Year by H.C. Robbins Landon

“Salieri’s Cosi fan tutte” by Bruce Alan Brown and John Rice, Cambridge Opera Journal 8, no. 1

Mozart’s Letters, Mozart’s Life edited by Robert Spaethling

A Mozart Pilgrimage by Vincent and Mary Novellos

Operation Olive Branch

Operation Olive Branch Instagram

Operation Olive Branch TikTok

Get 15% off all the gorgeous jewellery and accessories at or go to and use code VULGAR at checkout

Get Vulgar History merch at (best for US shipping) and (better for international shipping)

Support Vulgar History on Patreon


Vulgar History is an affiliate of, which means that a small percentage of any books you click through and purchase will come back to Vulgar History as a commission. Use this link to shop there and support Vulgar History.