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L'oca del Cairo

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L'oca del Cairo
Opera buffa fragment by W. A. Mozart
The composer, drawing by Doris Stock, 1789
TranslationThe Goose of Cairo
LibrettistGiovanni Battista Varesco

L'oca del Cairo (The Goose of Cairo or The Cairo Goose, K. 422) is an incomplete Italian opera buffa in three acts, begun by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in July 1783 but abandoned in October. The complete libretto by Giovanni Battista Varesco remains. Mozart composed seven of the ten numbers of the first act, plus some recitative, as well a sketch of the finale (lost); the extant music amounts to about 45 minutes.


Mozart's correspondence shows he wanted to write a comic opera to a new text for the Italian company in Vienna. He had only just met Lorenzo Da Ponte, who would later pen the libretti for several of Mozart's most successful operas, but Da Ponte was not available, so Mozart turned to Varesco, librettist for Mozart's earlier opera Idomeneo. Mozart's urgent need of a poet is attested by his willingness to work with someone, who in his opinion had "not the slightest knowledge or experience of the theatre".[1] Eventually Mozart realized the hopelessness of the project and abandoned Varesco's libretto after six months because of its silly ending, a farcical travesty of the Trojan Horse legend.

Performance history

Several versions have been prepared by adapting other music. The first performance (in concert) was in Frankfurt in April 1860 with numbers taken from Lo sposo deluso and some concert arias.

The first stage performance was given on 6 June 1867 in Paris at the Théâtre des Fantaisies-Parisiennes in a 2-act French adaptation, L'oie du Caire, by the Belgian librettist Victor Wilder, who added a new conclusion, and a musical arrangement by the conductor, Charles Constantin, who orchestrated the music and added other pieces by Mozart to complete it.[2]

Fragments from L'oca del Cairo, Lo sposo deluso, and Der Schauspieldirektor have been combined as Waiting for Figaro, performed in 2002 by the Bampton Classical Opera.


(role names for the French stage premiere)[3]
Voice type Premiere Cast, 6 June 1867
(Conductor: Charles Constantin)
Don Pippo (Don Beltran) bass Géraizer
Donna Pantea (Jacinthe), his wife, believed to be dead soprano Mathilde
Celidora (Isabelle) soprano A. Arnaud
Biondello (Fabrice) tenor Laurent
Calandrino, Donna Pantea's nephew, friend of Biondello and lover of Lavina[4] tenor
(The eunuch)[5] Bonnet
Lavina, Celidora's companion[4] soprano
Chichibio (Pascal) Don Pippo's major-domo, in love
with Auretta
bass (baritone) Masson
Auretta (Aurette) soprano Géraizer


Don Pippo, a Spanish Marquess, keeps his only daughter Celidora locked up in his tower. She is betrothed to Count Lionetto, but her true love is Biondello, a wealthy gentleman. Biondello makes a bet with the Marquis that if he can rescue Celidora from the tower within a year he wins her hand in marriage. He succeeds by having himself smuggled into the tower garden inside a large mechanical goose.

Noted arias

See also


  1. ^ Cairns 2006, p. 102.
  2. ^ Lecomte 1912, pp. 40–41; L'Oca del Cairo: History
  3. ^ Wilder 1867, p. 2; Lecomte 1912, pp. 40–41.
  4. ^ a b A role omitted in the libretto for the French premiere.
  5. ^ A role found in the libretto for the French premiere.


  • Cairns, David (2006). Mozart and his Operas. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520228986.
  • Lecomte, Louis-Henry (1912). Histoire des théâtres de Paris: Les Fantaisies-Parisiennes, l'Athénée Le Théâtre Scribe, l'Athénée-Comique (1865–1911). Paris: H. Daragon. Copy at the Internet Archive.
  • Wilder, Victor (1867). L'oie du Caire, opéra-bouffe en deux actes, libretto. Paris: Librairie Internationale; Brussels: A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven, & Ce. Copy at Gallica.
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