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La finta semplice (The Pretended Simpleton), K. 51 (46a) is an opera buffa in three acts for soloists and orchestra, composed in 1769 by then 13-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to an Italian libretto by the court poet Marco Coltellini based on an early work by Carlo Goldoni. It was performed at the court of Palace of the Archbishop, Salzburg, 1 May 1769.

Mozart composed the music using the model of comedy started by Philippe Destouches with La fausse Agnès, ou le Poète campagnard (1734). The form of libretto includes the introduction, a duet and three finals.


The opera was something of a career setback for Mozart, amid a childhood otherwise characterized by success and stardom. The instigation of the work was a remark made by Emperor Joseph II to Mozart's father Leopold during a visit made to Imperial capital of Vienna by the Mozart family (1767-1769). The Emperor suggested to Leopold that Wolfgang write an opera for performance by the imperial opera company. Leopold took the suggestion as a concrete request, and set Wolfgang to work composing La finta semplice--without taking the precaution of obtaining a legal contract. When the opera was finished, the performers apparently disliked it, and various intrigues ultimately prevented it from coming to performance in Vienna. Leopold was angry, and wrote a long letter of protest to the Emperor. The Emperor ordered an inquiry, but its result was that the opera was not to be produced.

The Mozarts left Vienna with La finta semplice still unperformed. It was then produced in their home town of Salzburg, under the auspices of Leopold's employer, Prince-Archbishop Schrattenbach.

The episode in Vienna was evidently quite damaging to Wolfgang's career. During the Vienna visit, Joseph II's mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, developed a very hostile view of the Mozart family. The empress was an important relative of a fair number of monarchs and aristocrats who might have been in a position to give Wolfgang a permanent job.Here is what she wrote (12 December 1771) to one potential employer, her 17-year-old son Ferdinand, Imperial Governor of Milanmarker.

You ask me to take the young Salzburger into your service. I do not know why, not believing that you have need of a composer or of useless people. If however it would give you pleasure, I have no wish to hinder you. What I say is intended only to prevent your burdening yourself with useless people and giving titles to people of that sort. If they are in your service it degrades that service when these people go about the world like beggars. Besides, he has a large family.

Ferdinand, who knew Mozart as a result of his Italian journey and was interested in hiring him, took his mother's advice. Elsewhere in Italy, Mozart received a very cool reception from another Ferdinand, the King of Naples; Melograni conjectures that he had received the Empress's bad recommendation from his wife, her daughter Maria Carolina.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, May 1, 1769
(Conductor: - )
Intended Cast, 1768 (Vienna)
Fracasso, a Hungarian captain
lodging with Cassandro
tenor Joseph Meissner Filippo Laschi
Rosina, his sister, a baroness soprano Maria Magdalena Haydn
Cassandro, a tyrannical misogynist bass Joseph Hornung Francesco Carattoli
Polidoro, his timid brother tenor Anton Franz Spitzeder
Giacinta, their sister,
evidently no longer young
mezzo-soprano Maria Anna Braunhofer
Simone, Fracasso's orderly,
in love with Ninetta
bass Felix Winter
Ninetta, Giacinta's maid soprano Maria Anna Fesemayer Antonia Wagerle Bernasconi


Place: Cassandro's estate near Cremona
Time: mid-18th century

Noted arias

  • "Chi mi vuol bene" - Ninetta in Act I
  • "Colla bocca e non col core" - Rosina in Act I
  • "Cosa ha mai la donna indosso" - Polidoro in Act I
  • "Ella vuole ed io torrei" - Cassandro in Act I
  • "Guarda la donna in viso" - Fracasso in Act I
  • "Non c'è al mondo" - Cassandro in Act I
  • "Marito io vorrei" - Giacinta in Act I
  • "Senti l'eco ove t'aggiri" - Rosina in Act I
  • "Troppa briga a prender moglie" - Simone in Act I
  • "Con certe persone" - Simone in Act II
  • "Ho sentito a dir di tutte" - Rosina in Act II
  • "In voi belle è leggiadria" - Fracasso in Act II
  • "Sposa cara" - Polidoro in Act II
  • "Ubriaco non son io" - Cassandro in Act II
  • "Un marito, donne care" - Ninetta in Act II
  • "Se a maritarmi arrivo" - Giacinta in Act II
  • "Amoretti che ascosi" - Rosina in Act II
  • "Che scompiglio" - Giacinta in Act III
  • "Nelle guerre d'amore" - Fracasso in Act III
  • "Sono in amore" - Ninetta in Act III
  • "Vieni, vieni, o mia Ninetta" - Simone in Act III


  • W.A. Mozart: La Finta Semplice, Orfeo, 85843
  • W.A. Mozart: La Finta Semplice, Brillant alias Joan Records, BC 99726 (on 5 CDs)
  • W.A. Mozart: La Finta Semplice, Philips, 422528-2
  • W.A. Mozart: La Finta Semplice, DGG, 073 4251 (DVD video)

See also



  • Deutsch, Otto Erich (1965) Mozart: A Documentary Biography. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Melograni, Pietro (2007) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: a Biography. Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226519562, 9780226519562
  • Solomon, Maynard (1995) Mozart: A Life.

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