When Wolfgang and Constanze Mozart came to Prague in October 1787 for the premiere of Don Giovanni, they stayed with František and Josefina Dušek at their out-of-town house called Bertramka, to the south-west of the city in what was then a country area; today it's part of the Smíchov suburb, though it still manages to be quiet and peaceful. A very attractive place, really a very large bungalow with a cellar, built on a sloping site. A cafe to one side in a building, under the garden terrace, that might once have been stables.
The stone table right at the top of the garden is allegedly where Mozart wrote (or at least completed) the Don Giovanni overture, the day before its first performance on 29 October in the Stavovoské divadlo [Estates Theatre]. Certainly he put the finishing touches to the opera at the house, and the finale and several arias were also written in Prague. Its two performances in the Estates Theatre were outrageously successful; not so back home in Vienna, initially, where it had its first performance in May the following year.
František Dušek was an accomplished pianist and a sought-after and charismatic teacher, mainly among the nobility. He married his 22-year-old pupil Josefina Hambacher, 23 years his junior, in 1776; Josefina was an excellent soprano with "a strong voice and expressive performances", and critics compared her singing to the leading singers of the time. She performed in Prague, as well as in Dresden, Liepzig and Vienna, mainly to court audiences. During his 1787 visit Mozart wrote for her the aria Bella mia fiamma, addio (K.528), following the concert aria Ah, lo previdi which he'd written for her in Salzburg in 1777, and they also performed together.
Josefina's mother came from a respected middle-class family in Salzburg, her father was a Prague pharmacist, and it was she who bought Bertramka in 1784. She had a reputation as an excellent hostess. František Dušek's contacts in high society allowed their Prague residence and the country house at Bertramka to host frequent gatherings of musicians, artists and art lovers. They had met Mozart in Salzburg in 1777 while visiting Josefina's grandfather Ignaz Weiser, a merchant and at that time Mayor of Salzburg.
Bertramka is not the easiest place to find after getting off at the 'Bertramka' tram stop, and I wasn't helped by that area of my map being covered by a box; it's a couple of streets away, south of the tram stop. A wedding party going on as I arrived which slightly upset the cafe arrangements. No photos allowed inside unfortunately, but I made notes about some of the instruments on display and copied down a few captions:
Instruments: A bassett horn by Theodor Lotz of Vienna, around 1785-92, one of very few surviving. An ivory flute by Johann Scherer and N Peltier, both leading makers, from about 1750. A five-octave fortepiano, richly inlaid, with an inverse keyboard, by an unknown maker but probably 1780-1800. A two-manual harpsichord by Johann Heinrich Gräbner the Elder of Dresden, dated 1722, the exterior later modified in the Rococo style; the only surviving instrument, probably played by Mozart in the palace of Count Nostitz.
A quote from Prager Neue Zeitung dated 10 February 1794: "It's as though Mozart wrote for the Czechs. His music was understood and performed nowhere better than in Prague, and is widely known even in the countryside."
Other visitors: Beethoven stayed at the house in 1796, and received a warm welcome. Tchaikovsky visited the house in 1888 [the Dušeks long gone, of course].
Mozart stayed at the house again in August-September 1791, on his return to Prague to perform La clemenza di Tito. When he died in Vienna shortly afterwards, on 5 December, members of the theatre orchestra in Prague organised a memorial service in St Nicholas church, on 14 December, at which Josefina sang the soprano solo.
Wolfgang and Constanze had first visited Prague in January 1787, when Mozart premiered the Symphony No.38 in D, K.504, thereafter known as the Prague symphony. Josefina Dušek was away on a concert tour in Dresden at the time, so they stayed at the house of Mozart's long-time supporter Count Thun, at Thunovská 14, immediately below the South Gardens and not far from the bottom of the steep Zámecké schody steps. The house is now the British Embassy, protected by heavy barriers and much CCTV, as we have unfortunately come to expect. But I photographed it, and I'm probably now on record!