|Born||May 15, 1759
|Died||February 1, 1824
At age two or three, Maria Theresia von Paradis became completely blind. Her godmother, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, was determined that this handicap would not deter the talented child, so Maria studied piano with Leopold Kuzeluch and singing with Vincenzo Righini. In 1779, von Paradis sang the soprano part in Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater while accompanying herself on the organ at a concert before the empress. Von Paradis became friendly with Mozart and Salieri, two rival composers at the court who dedicated works to her. A virtuoso pianist, she began touring Europe as well as composing pieces for her own concerts. Her librettist, Johan Riedlinger, devised a wooden pegboard which used different shaped pegs for different note values which allowed von Paradis to write down her music. Demand for original music was growing rapidly during this period, as more and more people were able to afford instruments. Von Paradis composed several piano sonatas, three cantatas, two operas and many songs as well as other works. She also founded and headed a music school in Vienna, where she taught singing and piano, whose express purpose was improving women’s musical education.