20141016Soprano Catherine Bott investigates the career and voice of the woman who first performed one of Mozart's finest operatic roles - Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro - 21 year old Londoner Nancy Storace.
Nancy was an 18th century superstar, who sang personally for Marie Antoinette as well as Napoleon and Josephine, and whose life was as dramatic as the times she lived through.
Nancy was musically talented from childhood and in 1778, aged 14, she was accompanied to Italy, where her reputation soon spread. Four years later, she was one of a company of performers recruited to work for Emperor Joseph II's court in Vienna.
Exploring Nancy's relationship with Mozart, Catherine meets the distinguished conductor, Jane Glover CBE, Director of Opera at the Royal Academy, Music Director of Chicago's Music of the Baroque, and author of the book Mozart's Women: His Family, His Friends, His Music. Jane is convinced there is no foundation in the rumours that the two were ever lovers, but she is certain they were very close, and that Nancy had important creative input into the development of Susanna, in the Marriage of Figaro.
But Nancy's personal life was a disaster - her mother forced her into an arranged marriage to a British actor, John Fisher, who beat her, and only the personal intervention of the Emperor rescued the situation.
Ian Page, founder, conductor and artistic director of the company Classical Opera, accompanies Catherine in a rendition of the concert aria Ch'io mi accordi di te? (You ask that I forget you?), written by Mozart for Nancy to perform the evening before she left Vienna to return to London, in 1787. Nancy never went back to Vienna.
Produced by Bob Dickinson
A Pennine Media production for BBC Radio 4.


Programme Id

  • b04l3bqq