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Mozart's Bawdy Canons, Vulgarity and Debauchery at the Wiednertheater

Buch, David J.

Mozart's bawdy canons and use of scatalogical parlance in his letters have been described as indicative of a personality given to crass expression. Moreover, his association with Emanuel Schikaneder's supposedly dissolute Theater auf der Wieden, a boisterous venue for German stage works, has been taken as further evidence of Mozart's profligate tendencies. A review of the original source materials reveals that these views are apocryphal, originating after Mozart's death and embellished in nineteenth-century commentary and scholarship. Examples of even raunchier canons, composed by musicians with connections to Mozart, Schikaneder and the Theater auf der Wieden provide new insight into the genre. An examination surviving bawdy Viennese canons in their social context, together with a reconsideration of the Mozart family letters and attitudes toward vulgarity in Viennese popular theatre, reveals that lewd expressions on the stage were relatively uncommon in this period, Mozart's use of scatalogical language was relatively mild for the time and accounts of the composer's debauchery in his last years have little evidentiary basis.

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