Article by Tony Sokol
Music has charms so soothe the savage breast, but musicians can also benefit from relaxation. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the best-known and respected figures in classical music, was soothed by Anton Mesmer, one of the best-known and respected figures in the history of hypnotherapy.
Mozart reportedly used hypnotism to help him create. According to scattered reports, Mozart’s opera “Cosi Fan Tutte” was entirely composed in a hypnotic trance. Some websites claim Mozart studied hypnosis. While this is not true, the controversial musician had a long association with the controversial creator of magnetism, which hypnosis is based on, Anton Mesmer.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756. He is considered by many to be the greatest composer ever. He was a prodigy who began writing symphonies when he was five years old. Mozart was truly brilliant. He composed over 600 works in such varied genres as symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He dealt with diverse subjects. He wrote a party ballad called “Leck mich im Arsch” “(Lick My Ass)” and even wrote a sequel called “Lick My Ass Nice and Clean.” The lyrics are hysterical. The manuscripts are housed at Harvard University’s Music Library.
By the time Mozart was 12 years old, he was already a “rock star” of the time, revered for his musical brilliance and reviled in some social circles for his controversial appetites and naughty correspondences. He composed 500 pages of music for the piece “La finta semplice” but the director of the Imperial Opera refused to present an opera by Mozart on the ground that he was too young to compose an opera.
Dr. Mesmer was a music aficionado who played piano and cello and was also a close friend of Joseph Haydn. In the autumn of 1768, the Viennese physician, who married the wealthy widow Anna Maria von Posch, arranged the first performance of Mozart’s one-act opera “Bastien und Bastienne.” Mesmer’s house on the Landstrasse in Vienna was palatial. Gardens in rococo style surrounded a small theater. Mozart conducted the orchestra while he played as the keyboardist.
Some biographers dispute whether the performance took place but Mozart and Mesmer had a lifelong friendship and the composer immortalized Mesmer in his opera “Cosi Fan Tutte” which is usually translated as “Women are like that.” The full title of the opera is “Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti” or “Thus do they all, or The School for Lovers.”
When Mozart was 17, he was in the house band at the Salzburg court, but was let go while visiting Vienna in 1781, he was let go and spent the rest of his life in the capital. Young Ludwig van Beethoven spent several weeks in Vienna In 1787 hoping to study with Mozart though there are no records on whether the two composers ever met. By mid-1788, Mozart and his family moved to the suburb of Alsergrund and Mozart began to borrow money because of his extravagant lifestyle.
The Italian-language opera buffa “Così fan tutte” was first performed on January 26, 1790, at the Wiener Burgtheater in Vienna, Austria. It was performed five times before it was closed to mourn the death of the Emperor Joseph II. “Così fan tutte” was first performed in the U.S. in 1922 at the Metropolitan Opera.
The librettist for “Cosi Fan Tutte” was Lorenzo Da Ponte, who also collaborated with Mozart on the operas “Don Giovanni” and “The Marriage of Figaro.”
In “Cosi Fan Tutte,” two young men, Guglielmo and Ferrando, brag about how faithful their lovers, the twin sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella, are. But their friend Don Alfonso, an old philosopher, warns them not to be so trusting because women are all the same.
According to William Mann, Mozart disliked the singer Adriana Ferrarese del Bene, for whom the role of Fiordiligi was written. The diva was renowned for dropping her chin on low notes and throwing her head back for high notes. The impish composer filled the character’s showpiece aria “Come scoglio” with tonal jumps to make Ferrarese’s head “bob like a chicken” onstage.
In the midst of this opera-goers see the twin sisters’ maid Despina impersonate a doctor and cure the two men using the magnetic methods of the Parisian practitioner Mesmer.
“This is that piece of magnet. The stone of Mesmer, who originated in Germany and then became so famous,” Da Ponte wrote in the opera.
Mesmer coined the term animal magnetism. He received his medical degree on May 27, 1766. His thesis was called “The Influence of the Planets on the Human Body.”
Mesmer first used magnetism in 1773 when treating a 27-year-old woman who was suffering from paralysis, persistent vomiting and urinary retention, and was expected to die. English physicians were making therapeutic use of magnets. Mesmer had the woman swallow a preparation containing iron and attached magnets to her stomach and legs. When the woman improved greatly Mesmer credited the “magnetic fluid” for her cure. He commissioned magnets from the Royal Astronomer in Vienna and toured Bavaria as a healer, but met the hostility of his medical colleagues when he returned to Vienna.
In 1777, Mesmer treated a blind pianist whose optic nerve was undamaged. She suffered from spasms of her eyes and depression and endured horrific treatment including the application of a plaster cast of her skull electrical shocks to her eyes. Mesmer applied the transmission of “Animal Magnetism,” which today might be called the laying on of hands. The girl improved rapidly, thought she relapsed within the year.
In 1784, American Foreign Minister to France Benjamin Franklin lead a Royal Commission to investigate Mesmer’s theories of “Animal Magnetism.” By August 1784, their official report found no evidence to support the theories and the commission raised concerns about the treatment’s harmful effects. The findings of the commission and the French Revolution led Mesmer to leave Paris and return to Vienna.
Mesmer’s work was denounced during his life, but it spread after his death, largely through experiments carried out by Baron du Potet, who later became an Honorary Member of the Theosophical Society, between 1830 and 1846. Science denounced mesmerism in favor of hypnotism.
During his life, the music-loving physician often took an instrumental part during the performances he presented. Besides playing the violoncello and the clavichord, Mesmer owned a glass instrument called the armonica, which he mastered better, according to surviving letters, than Wolfgang himself, who also tickled the rare instrument on visits.
Mozart’s death on December 5, 1791 at the age of 35 is shrouded in controversy and intrigue. On the morning of March 15, 1815, a young musician played Mozart’s “A major Sonata” on musical glasses made in the sixteenth century by Athanasius Kircher, who believed the power of sound could cure diseases, to accompany Dr. Anton Mesmer as he passed on.