Prague Minos Guide

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18. - 19. století

Josefa Duschek

Outstanding singer and friend of W. A. Mozart
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Josefa Duschek was an outstanding soprano singer with a strong and remarkably flexible voice. She had the reputation of being an excellent hostess, not only because of her hospitable home. The Duscheks always offered the pleasure of good company, which was open to everything new and beautiful and where one could talk, play and behave freely.
Her father was a pharmacist in a shop on the Old Town Square and her mother came from a well-respected family from Salzburg. Josefa lost her father when she was 12 but was able to continue working on her obvious musical talent. After 1770 she took lessons from Francis Xaver Duschek, whom she married in 1776. The great age difference between the two provoked, and still provokes, numerous rumors and conjectures. But it is known that Duschek was a charismatic teacher who greatly influenced all of his students. He was also a personality gifted with a natural and well-deserved authority in the musical environment. At his side, Josefa could devote to the music she loved in a respectable social position, which an engagement in a theater for instance wouldn’t have given her. She could rub elbows with nobles and artists.
Their investment in real estate – the purchase of the Bertramka villa in 1784 wasn’t the only one – shows their good financial situation. Josefa could also cultivate her love of plastic art and enlarge her art collections

– painters were also part of her admirers and friends.
Critics compared Duschek’s singing talent to the most renowned singers of her time. She performed in Prague, several times in independent academies, in Germany, mainly in Dresden and Leipzig, and in Vienna on concerts usually reserved to the court’s audience, and exceptionally in operas. Together with her husband she met the Mozart family while staying with relatives in Salzburg in 1777. Wolfgang Amadeus was her age and they shared a similar temperament. He dedicated the aria “Ah, lo previdi” to her, and once in Bertramka he wrote the aria “Bella mia fiamma, addio” for her. Duschek performed with Mozart on several occasions – in Vienna in 1786 at the imperial court in front of Josef II, and in Saxony in 1789. She also collaborated with the young Ludwig van Beethoven. We can say that the Duscheks were Mozart’s friends even beyond the grave: Constanze Mozart entrusted her sons to their care and Duschek sang at Mozart’s funeral celebration in Prague.
When her husband died in 1799, Josefa started having financial problems. She had to sell the Bertramka villa and kept moving to smaller flats. She continued to sing, primarily in major religious compositions – in masses and oratorios. She died in 1824 as a poor woman and she is buried next to her husband at the Mala Strana cemetery near Bertramka.


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