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Cavalieri, Caterina (1760–1801)

Cavalieri, Caterina (1760–1801)

Austrian soprano, best known for performing Mozart's music during his lifetime. Name variations: Katharina or Catherina. Born in Vienna, Austria, on February 19, 1760; died in Vienna on June 30, 1801.

Debuted at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna (1775); career based entirely in Vienna.

On September 26, 1781, Mozart wrote to his father, "I have sacrificed Konstanze's aria a little to the flexible throat of Mlle Cavalieri." The talented young composer was eager to ingratiate himself with Caterina Cavalieri and her protector, the court composer Salieri. Although Salieri was the senior composer, Cavalieri gladly sang the younger Mozart's works, which gained her a place in musical history. She possessed an impressive upper range that was combined with an extraordinary stamina and flexibility. She also possessed a very strong chest voice. After her debut in Vienna, Cavalieri sang 18 leading roles with the Italian group of singers to which she belonged. When Joseph II inaugurated opera buffa at the Burgtheater, Cavalieri was given many new roles. She played Donna Elvira in the first Vienna production of Don Giovanni in 1788. Mozart rewrote "Dove sono" in Le nozze di Figaro (Marriage of Figaro) in 1789 to accommodate the singer. Some criticized Cavalieri for lack of animation and accuracy whereas others maintained that she screamed her roles. Despite these flaws, Caterina Cavalieri had some of music's greatest works written for her by one of the world's most talented composers. Her character has been fictionalized in the movie Amadeus, directed by Milos Forman, from Peter Shaffer's screenplay based on his own play.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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