Did you know that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a procrastinator and a drunk? Me neither. I read that somewhere recently. Not exactly those words, but what I read indicated that Mozart wrote “Don Giovanni,” a two act opera, the same day it was performed for the first time, while suffering from a massive hangover. Well, I found it a little hard to believe, so I did a little fact-finding.
That particular story, about writing it the same day it premiered, is everywhere. Some information claims that he was being nagged by his wife to finish it in time for the premiere that evening while he suffered from that hangover. But the facts don’t really corroborate that
It does appear that there is some conflict about when the opera was actually finished, either the day before, October 28, 1787, or on the day it was performed in Prague at the Teatro di Praga, October 29, 1787. Maybe Wolfgang was putting some finishing touches on the piece the day of the performance, but he penned the completion of the opera on October 28, 1787. That doesn’t mean he wrote it that day either, it means he finished it that day. He could have worked on it for months. And when the hell did the orchestra get a chance to practice it? I don’t care how good an orchestra is, they’re not going to do the piece flawless the first time the music is put in front of them.
He was supposed to have it finished on October 15, 1787, but it wasn’t ready, and I can’t find a specific date that it was commissioned; sometime after February of 1787 it seems. So he could have had as much as 8 months to write it. Listen to it sometime, (yes it’s on YouTube), and you will absolutely understand that there is no way he wrote that opera in a few hours and had it performance ready that evening. My theory is that he finished it on the 27th, did a bit of celebrating, overdid it in fact, and then dated it completed the following day while suffering that alleged hangover. But the orchestra was practicing parts of it long before that.
By the way, the full title is “Il Dissoluto Punito ossia Il Don Giovanni – Dramma Giocoso in due atti.” That last part means “in two acts.” It’s about the life of one, fictional, Don Juan. Who cares, right? You couldn’t force me to go to an opera anyway, especially if I found out the guy only put a few hours of effort into it.
I once heard Lionel Richie say, in an interview, that he wrote songs in the shower. A song would just pop into his head and he’d have “All Night Long (All Night)” finished by the time he dried off. Somehow hearing that irritated me. Admitting that I watched an interview with Lionel Ritchie irritates me too. People shouldn’t be able to write songs in the shower. Songs that end up number one on the billboard charts shouldn’t be that easy. Michael Jackson once said the music was always in his head too.
I heard this story from Jana Kramer while listening to the radio the other day. She claims to have bumped into an old boyfriend on the way to the recording studio and he was wearing this old T-shirt that she used to wear. When she got to the studio, her and another band member sat down and put together the song in an hour or so. “Why ya Wanna.” Well, it’s a good story, and a good song, but she’s not credited to have written it. The song was written by Ashley Gorley, Catt Gravitt and Chris DeStefano. They probably have their own story about how the song came about. Probably just rattling around in one of their heads.
I’ve heard a lot of artists say they can write a song in a few minutes, and even record them the same day. Kenny Chesney could sit in an old blue chair and write a top 10 song about it and a whole album of other songs while he sat there. The second big hit of his career, “The Tin Man,” he claims to have written after watching the “Wizard of Oz” in 1991. Supposedly he had just broken up with a girl that had moved back to Florida. He says they didn’t actually break up, she just moved. He watched the Tin Man go through the whole movie wanting a heart, and then in the end he realizes, when Dorothy goes home, that there’s a downside to having one. Kenny said, “That just hit me deep.” That’s what the song is about. Of course, the melody was probably just in his head.
I don’t know where I’m going with this, except that people that can write songs with little or no effort seems a little iniquitous. Shouldn’t we all be able to do it? I know I have music in my head all the time. Those nasty ear-worms; a song that gets stuck in your head and plays over and over. The only way to get rid of it is to start playing another song in your head. The reason they get stuck is because you don’t know all the words. At least that’s what they say. So logically, if you pull up the lyrics to the song that is stuck in your head, and you sing it through (not necessarily recommending that you do this out loud) you should be able to stop the ear-worm. I think I’m going to try that now because “All Night Long” can’t be allowed to continue. What the hell does “Karamu, fiesta, forever” mean?