The ties between Mozart and France were forged during the composer’s lifetime, as is evidenced first of all by his three stays in Paris in his youth as well as by his choice of setting Beaumarchais’ famous play Le Mariage de Figaro to music. These close ties continued after his death, with French adaptations of his operas played on the nation’s leading stages and the great opera singer Pauline Viardot’s acquisition of the manuscript of Don Giovanni in 1855, a manuscript now kept at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
In 1887, on the occasion of the centenary of the creation of Don Giovanni, the Palais Garnier opera house staged eight performances of the work and mounted an exhibition organised around Mozart’s manuscript. In 2017, alongside the new Mozart/Da Ponte cycle inaugurated by the Paris Opera, the exhibition organized by the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Opera national de Paris is designed to highlight the Salzburg composer’s presence in French musical life, from his first visits to France to his posthumous glory on the stages of the nation’s opera houses. Through a selection of a hundred and forty items, some of them on display for the first time, the exhibition provides an overview of Mozart’s progressive recognition by the French public: first of all fascination at the precocity of the child prodigy; then adaptation of his works to suit French taste; and finally celebration of an unequalled musical genius.