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Steffen Ralf Lösel, Candler School of Theology of Emory University

Theologia Cantans: Mozart on God, Church, and Humanity

Lösel’s project unearths the critical Catholicism in the main operatic works of popular yet widely misunderstood composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791). Lösel plans to explore Mozart’s faith through a musical and textual analysis of anthropological, christological, ethical, and eschatological themes. Parting ways with the illustrative use of Mozart’s works common among theologians, he will portray the composer as a theological critic, equally of traditional church doctrine and of atheistic and materialistic strands of the Enlightenment. His focus will be on Mozart’s critique of the Baroque era’s political absolutism, hierarchical order, and social patriarchy, and specifically on their theological legitimation. Lösel plans to demonstrate how Mozart’s operatic works call into question the nobility’s claim to function as God’s representatives on earth and the church’s corresponding conception of God in analogy to hierarchical society. On the constructive side, he will show Mozart as an enlightened advocate of the Christian theological triad of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation as the true foundation of human society. Lösel argues that Mozart’s Catholic and humanistic vision of society provides an alternative theological model for how divine grace and forgiveness are communicated to and reflected in the human sphere by all members of society, not just the clerical order.