He reached home in mid-January, and was welcomed with festivities saddened by the now keenly realized death of the mother. Soon he was in harness as organist and concertmaster, and soon he was fretting. He later recalled:
In Salzburg work was a burden to me, and I could hardly ever settle down to it. Why? Because I was never happy.... In Salzburg—for me at least—there is not a farthing’s worth of entertainment. I refuse to associate with a good many people there—and most of the others do not think me good enough. Besides, there is no stimulus for my talent. When I play, or when any of my compositions is performed, it is just as if the audience were all tables and chairs. If only there were even a tolerably good theater in Salzburg!28
He longed to write operas, and gladly accepted the request of Elector Karl Theodor to compose one for the next Munich festival. He began work on Idomeneo, re di Creta, in October, 1780; in November he went to Munich for rehearsals; on January 29, 1781, the opera was produced with success, despite its unusual length. Mozart remained six weeks more in Munich, relishing its social life, until a summons came from Archbishop Colloredo to join him in Vienna. There he had the pleasure of living in the same palace with his employer, but he ate with the servants. “The two valets sit at the head of the table, and I have the honor to be placed above the cooks.”29 This was the custom of the time in the homes of the nobility; Haydn bore it with silent resentment, Mozart rebelled against it ever more audibly. He was pleased to have his music and his talent displayed in the homes of the Archbishop’s friends, but he fumed when Colloredo refused most of his requests to let him accept outside engagements that might have brought him added income and wider fame. “When I think of leaving Vienna without at least a thousand florins in my pocket, my heart sinks within me.”30
He made up his mind to quit Colloredo’s service. On May 2, 1781, he went to live as a lodger with the Webers, who had moved to Vienna. When the Archbishop sent him instructions to return to Salzburg, he replied that he could not leave till May 12. An interview followed, in which the Archbishop (as Mozart reported to his father)
called me the most opprobrious names—oh, I really cannot bring myself to write you all! At last, when my blood was boiling, I could hold out no longer, and said, “Then your Serene Highness is not satisfied with me?” “What! do you mean to threaten me, you rascal, you villain? There is the door; I will have nothing more to do with such a wretched fellow!” At last I said, “Neither will I with you.” “Then be off!” As I went I said, “Let it be so, then; tomorrow you shall hear from me by letter.” Tell me, dear father, should I not have had to say this sooner or later? . . .
Write to me privately that you are pleased—for indeed you may be so—and find fault with me heartily in public, so that no blame may attach to you. But if the Archbishop offers you the least impertinence, come to me at once in Vienna. We can all three live on my earnings.31
Leopold was plunged into another crisis. His own position seemed imperiled, and it was not for some time yet that he would receive reassurances from Colloredo. He was alarmed at the news that his son was rooming with the Webers. The father of that family was now dead; Aloysia had married the actor Joseph Lange; but the widow had another daughter, Constanze, waiting for a husband. Was this another blind alley for Wolfgang? Leopold begged him to apologize to the Archbishop, and come home. Mozart now for the first time refused to obey his father. “To please you, my dear father, I would renounce my happiness, my health, and life itself, but my honor comes before all with me, and so it must be with you. My dearest, best of fathers, demand of me what you will, only not that.”32 On June 2 he sent Leopold thirty ducats as an earnest of future aid.
Three times he went to the Archbishop’s Vienna residence to submit his formal resignation. Colloredo’s chamberlain refused to transmit it, and on the third occasion he “threw him [Mozart] out of the antechamber and gave him a kick in the behind”—so Mozart described the scene in his letter of June 9.33 To appease his father he left the Weber home and took other lodgings. He assured Leopold that he had only “had fun” with Constanze: “if I had to marry all those with whom I have jested, I should have two hundred wives at least.”34 However, on December 15 he informed his father that Constanze was so sweet, so simple and domestic, that he wished to marry her.
You are horrified at the idea? But I entreat you, dearest, most beloved father, to listen to me. … The voice of nature speaks as loud in me as in others-louder, perhaps, than in many a big, strong lout of a fellow. I simply cannot live as most young men do in these days. In the first place, I have too much religion; in the second place I have too much love of my neighbor and too high a feeling of honor to seduce an innocent girl; and in the third place I have too much horror and disgust, too much dread and fear of diseases, and too much care for my health, to fool about with whores. So I can swear that I have never had relations of that sort with any woman.... I stake my life on the truth of what I have told you. . . .
But who is the object of my love? … Surely not one of the Webers? Yes, … Constanze, … the kindest-hearted, the cleverest, the best of them all. … Tell me whether I could wish myself a better wife. … All that I desire is to have a small assured income (of which, thank God, I have good hopes), and then I shall never cease entreating you to allow me to save this poor girl and to make myself and her—and, if I may say so, all of us—very happy. For surely you are happy when I am? And you are to enjoy one half of my fixed income. … Please take pity on your son!35
Leopold did not know what to believe. He used every effort to dissuade his almost penniless son from marriage, but Mozart felt that after twenty-six years of filial obedience it was time for him to have his own way, to lead his own life. Through seven months he pleaded in vain for parental consent; finally, on August 4, 1782, he married without it. On August 5 it came. Now Mozart was free to discover how far one could support a family by composing the most varied assemblage of superb music in man’s history.