Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Commentary

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Eight Songs from Isolation: first opera written for a socially distanced world

Conductor Oliver Zeffman has commissioned the very first opera for a socially distanced world, which is now available to watch exclusively on Apple Music. Eight Songs From Isolation has been written by eight leading composers, specifically for streaming - rather than live performance - and is the first opera written for a time when the performers were unable to meet in person.

Let Music Live

Leading freelance musicians unite in Parliament Square to call for targeted support for colleagues in the arts and entertainment sector.

Murphy & Attridge celebrate performers' humanity with a creative response to lockdown

Duo Lewis Murphy (composer) and Laura Attridge (writer) have launched a charitable song project entitled Notes From Isolation. The resulting songs, featuring some of the UK's top singing talent, are being released online between August and October 2020 and can be enjoyed free of charge.

The Royal Opera House unveils programme of new work alongside much-loved classics for live audiences this Autumn

The Royal Opera House is thrilled to announce an exciting, wide-ranging new line-up for its autumn programme. For the first time, extraordinary performances will be accessible online for a global audience through livestreams and for socially distanced live audiences at our home in Covent Garden. In a global first, we present a new opera in hyper-reality, alongside repertory favourites from both artistic companies.

Wexford Festival Opera Gala Concert - Remote Voices: as part of Waiting for Shakespeare …The Festival in the air

Some of the most famous and outstanding stars from the opera world are to take part in a very special evening from Wexford Festival Opera, including Aigul Akhmetshina, Joseph Calleja, Daniela Barcellona, Juan Diego Flórez, Igor Golovatenko, Ermonela Jaho, Sergey Romanovsky, and many more.

OperaStreaming announces second season of nine new productions from the opera houses of Emilia-Romagna, free to view on YouTube

Following its successful launch in 2019, OperaStreaming streams nine operas on YouTube from the historic opera houses of Emilia-Romagna during the 2020-21 season, with fully-staged productions of Verdi's La traviata in October from Modena and Verdi'sOtello from Bologna in...

Connections Across Time: Sholto Kynoch on the 2020 Oxford Lieder Festival

‘A brief history of song’ is the subtitle of the 2020 Oxford Lieder Festival (10th-17th October), which will present an ambitious, diverse and imaginative programme of 40 performances and events.

Bampton Classical Opera 2020: Gluck's The Crown at St John's Smith Square

Bampton Classical Opera returns to the Baroque splendour of London’s St John’s Smith Square on November 6 with a concert performance of Gluck’s one-act opera The Crown, the first in the UK since 1987. The performance will also be filmed and available to watch on demand on the Bampton website from 9 November.

A new opera written during lockdown with three different endings to choose from to premiere this October as part of Wexford Festival Opera

While many of us spent lockdown at home taking it a little easier, composer Andrew Synnott wrote an opera.

Grange Park Opera presents Britten’s Owen Wingrave, filmed on location in haunted houses in Surrey and London

Owen Wingrave is part of the new Interim Season of 19 brand new events, all free to view online between September and December 2020.

Music and Theatre For All launches three major new projects supported by The Arts Council

The Arts Council has awarded innovative UK charity Music and Theatre For All (MTFA) a major new grant to develop three ambitious new projects in the wake of Covid 19.

English National Opera to reopen the London Coliseum with performances of Mozart’s Requiem

English National Opera (ENO) will reopen the London Coliseum to socially distanced audiences on 6 and 7 November for special performances of Mozart’s Requiem. These will provide audiences with an opportunity to reflect upon and to commemorate the difficulties the nation has faced during the pandemic.

The Royal Opera House launches autumn digital programme with a new series of Friday Premieres and screenings on Sky Arts

The Royal Opera House is proud to continue its curated #OurHouseToYourHouse programme into the autumn, bringing audiences the best of the ROH through a new series of Friday Premieres and cultural highlights.

Take a Bow: Royal Opera House opens its doors for the first time in six months as part of Open House London

After six months of closure, the Royal Opera House is thrilled to be opening its doors to the public as part of Open House London weekend, giving visitors a taste of one of the world’s most famous theatres for free.

Academy of St Martin in the Fields presents re:connect - a series of autumn concerts at St. Martin-in-the-Fields

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is thrilled to announce re:connect - an eight concert series with live socially distanced audiences at its namesake church, St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The autumn concerts will take place at 5pm & 7:30pm on two Saturdays per month with guest artists including baritone Roderick Williams, soprano Carolyn Sampson and composer-conductor-pianist Ryan Wigglesworth performing a wide range of repertoire.

Connections Across Time: The Oxford Lieder Festival, 10-17 October 2020

Music and poetry unite and collide across centuries, from the Medieval to the Enlightenment to the present day. This year, the Oxford Lieder Festival will present a thrilling and innovative programme comprising more than forty events streamed over eight days.

The English Concert Autumn 2020 series: Handel and Purcell, Britain’s Orpheus

The English Concert with artistic director Harry Bicket is delighted to announce a series of concerts from 1-15 October 2020. The concerts take place in historic London venues with star soloists and will be performed and streamed live to a paying audience at 7pm GMT on each performance date. The programmes include first-class vocal and instrumental works from the two pillars of the English Baroque, covering different aspects of the repertoire.

Glyndebourne announces first indoor performances since lockdown, and unveils 2021 Festival repertoire

Glyndebourne has announced plans for a ‘staycation’ series of socially-distanced indoor performances, starting on 10 October 2020.

Royal Opera House announces autumn opera and ballet concerts

The Royal Opera House is delighted to announce two packed evenings of opera and ballet, live from our stage in Covent Garden and available to view wherever you are in the world online.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
17 Jan 2006

IT MUST NOT HAVE BEEN EASY BEING MOZART

It must not have been an easy life, being Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Perhaps even more so after the fact when scholars began to do their research and “wanna bes” began their intimations and psychoanalyzing. In the more seventy-five years of Mozart scholarship and its coming of age, one must ask: How much more is there to learn, to research?

How much more do we want to know? How much more do we need to know? The many writings about Mozart since WW II are not of a passing interest. They betray a fascination, almost an obsession, with the life of this 18th century musician. A life that was akin to a great shooting star, which streaked across the musical heavens. As it burned itself out in its course, it delighted and amazed those who saw it and became legend and tale to those who did not, even creating its own band of nay-sayers. Such was the life of “God’s love,” (Theophilus) or as Mozart preferred Amadeus.

The approaching 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart brings to the fore of the music market DVDs, CDs, books, memorabilia and, yes, even kitsch. The following essay offers a look at three items worthy of reading, viewing, and hearing. These are aesthetic and intellectual pleasures for those searching for a “new” and enriching Mozart experience.

Mozart_Companion.jpgThe Cambridge Companion to Mozart. Edited by Simon P. Keefe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, first published 2003.

In the world of Mozartiana, fiction is often accepted more as fact than the facts themselves. There is the continuous quest to reveal some titillating new detail about the personal life of the composer, whereby the gossip mills keep turning and the caricature of an eccentric or even an “idiot savant” remains fixed in the mind of those who would have it be so. Fortunately, this book is a publication of scholarly merit, which is as “accessible” to the academic as it is to the enthusiast. The Cambridge Companion to Mozart is must reading.

The first Mozart Companion, subtitled A Symposium by Leading Mozart Scholars, edited by H. C. Robbins Landon and Donald Mitchell, appeared in print in 1955/56 in conjunction with the bicentenary of the composer’s birth. The annotations alone, speak of its place in the nascent stages of Mozart scholarship: the use of Emily Anderson’s translations of The Letters of Mozart and his Family (1938), Koechel’s thematic catalog of Mozart’s works, a third edition prepared by Alfred Einstein in 1937 and further revised after WW II (1947), and the names of such eminent Mozart scholars as Otto Erich Deutsch, Friedrich Blume, H. C. Robbins Landon, Karl Geiringer, Gerald Abraham, and Jens Peter Larsen, each contributing according to his own area of expertise. While the essays and discussions touch on style and influence, the focus is the music: keyboard, wind band, chamber music, symphonies, concerti, operas, concert arias, small orchestral works, and church music. In his “Foreword,” Donald Mitchell writes: “Mozart’s extraordinary versatility, the ease with which he worked in the various media … makes it almost impossible for one commentator … The picture of the whole Mozart is too complex in extent and content … for one mind to comprehend the total unity which exists behind the dazzling variety.” (xi) One might also say that it is too complex for one Companion.

The Cambridge Companion to Mozart is a continuation of the work published fifty years ago, as Simon P. Keefe states, “Like its illustrious predecessor from an earlier era … The Cambridge Companion to Mozart brings new, up-to-date scholarship into a public arena. Intended for scholars and music lovers alike, it aims to bridge the gap between scholarly and popular images of the composer by enhancing a reader’s appreciation of Mozart and his remarkable output regardless of musical aptitude or prior knowledge of Mozart’s music.” (Introduction, 2) The recurring theme in both publications, as well as in Mozartian secondary literature in general, is that the music and the man deserve responsible analysis and interpretation.

Essayists of the first Companion have since become distinguished names in the area of Mozart scholarship: Emily Anderson, whose Letters is now in its third edition; Wilhelm Bauer and Otto Erich Deutsch, authors of the seven volumes of Mozart: Letters and Records; Deutsch’s Mozart: A Documentary Biography and his Mozart: The Documents of his Life; and the exquisite Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, which began in 1955 and continues today.

The Cambridge Companion is in four parts, offering something to those of all music disciplines: 1) attends to Mozart’s place in late 18th century Salzburg and Vienna, with a new and vigorous discussion of Mozart’s aesthetic views and those of the times, as well as his compositional methods. This section is of particular interest in regards to Mozart’s life in Salzburg, his vocal writing and recent scholarship that addresses the revisions in some of his arias, and his fondness for the voice and for singers. 2) Offers a survey of the genres in which Mozart excelled, although a bit lean when compared to similar sections in the 1955/56 Companion; it segues into part 3) how the music and the composer himself have been received in society and culture since his death. The nineteenth century perspective and the current fascination are discussions, the benefit of which, are the product of time. 4) This section, regrettably too short, addresses Mozart’s career as a performer as well as theoretical and practical perspectives on historically informed performances of his music. By its length and overview approach, it is more of an introduction to the topic. Levin in particular, offers enough commentary to spark interest for those of a serious nature to look further, and for the appetite of the devotee to be sated. Throughout the Companion, the endnotes are rich in content. It is best to read them in connection with the text; the flipping back and forth is well worth the effort.

The definition of the word “companion” (one who accompanies or associates with another; one who travels with another) suggests that this book is not to be read in a vacuum, but rather in conjunction with something else. One might read it in combination with the first Companion, a live performance, or a Mozart listening event. It serves as a wonderful introduction to Mozart opera, Don Giovanni.

Don_Giovanni_TDK.gifDon Giovanni (K. 527), conducted by Riccardo Muti, with the Chorus and Orchestra of the Vienna Staatsoper; Carlos Álvarez, Fran-Josef Selig, Adrianne, Pieczonka, Michael Schade, Anna Caterina Antonacci, Ildebrando d’Arcangelo, Angelika Kirchschlager, and Lorenzo Regazzo; directed for stage by Roberto de Simone; Co-produced by the Wiener Staatsoper and Wiener Festwochen; DVDW-OPDG, Wiener Staats Oper LIVE, 1999/2005. Brian Large directs the video production. There are 70 cuing tracks, subtitles in five languages, and the stereo sound is well balanced; no surround-sound.

On 26 June 1999, opening night of this performance, this production team of Don Giovanni met with a few “boos” and mixed reviews from the international press, with the German papers voicing the greatest skepticism. Although the production was questionable, such was not the case for the singers, the orchestra or Maestro Muti, for whom there was “an explosion of applause.” Although the name Muti is not generally associated with expertise in the area of Mozart, the Viennese Orchestra responds to the Maestro’s choice of dynamics, phrasing and tempi. As an aside, some may find tempi, at times, a tad too energetic. Muti is sensitive to the vocalists, never demanding that they compete with the orchestra. Together, they produce lovely sounds and musical moments. The Mozart ensembles remain in tact and a delight.

Like Faust, the title character of this opera is an archetype; a timeless creature. One may even speculate about the similarities between Don Giovanni and the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749-1838), who frequently moved from city to city because of scandal or intrigue. The cause of this rather contradictory reception rests with Roberto de Simone, who depicts Don Giovanni traveling through time, beginning in the 16th century and continuing for two centuries. There are many costume changes--Giovanni alone has seven! It is an intriguing twist, one that may have delighted Mozart’s own theatrical flair. Edmund J. Goehring writes in the Cambridge Companion, “Mozart’s finest opera buffe seem unruly in their resistance to [the discipline of restrained language and probable situations.]” One of the pitfalls is readjusting one’s mental time-frame with each costume change. Moreover, it interferes with—almost superseding—the actual story.

The production was staged in the rather intimate Theatre an der Wien, 26/27 June 1999, as part of the Wiener Festwochen. Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist of Die Zauberfloete and the original Papageno built this particular theater in 1800. Its architecture, along with its size and wonderful acoustics, faithfully portrays the tradition of the Baroque theatre, which is the starting point for Roberto de Simone’s production.

Carlos Álvarez sings the title role. His voice is commanding and a wonderful instrument. The quiver of sexuality and the undercurrent of violence are on the sparse side. Amid the beautiful vocal sounds, one waits for his commitment to the character. This is extremely important to the continuity of de Simone’s time-traveler staging. It is also one of the distractions from its total success.

Leporello, as sung by Ildebrando d’Arcangelo is at times over the edge. From his first scene, he commands the stage—almost becoming the focal point!

Adrianne Pieczonka as Donna Anna, the wronged woman, is exquisite. Particularly engaging is her lower ranges, e.g., in Non me dir. In her last scene with Michael Schade as Don Ottavio, Pieczonka is gentle, smooth and a delight for the ear. While Schade is not a powerful tenor, particularly in his lower register, Pieczonka accommodates him and does not overwhelm. A regular at the Theatre an der Wien, Schade’s presentation of vocal colors and dynamics is impeccable.

Anna Caterina Antonacci sings a vibrant and characteristically perfect Donna Elvira. She navigates Mozart’s wide tessitura with ease and agility; register transfers are fluid and unnoticed. She works and plays well with others, extracting from each that which gives her character buoyancy and life. She can be resentful and reproving and yet girlishly enticing. Antonacci renders Donna Elvira in totality. Superb!

Characteristic of Don Giovanni is the graveyard scene. Unfortunately, this rendition lacks verve. Franz-Josef Selig as the Commendatore, does not overwhelm Don Giovanni. One awaits power and ascendancy. One is disappointed. The graveyard set is strange, sans gravestones and two statues?

In the end, it is all a matter of interpretation. In the end, it is the musical interpretation of Muti and the magnificent vocal cast that makes this DVD well worth the experience. Proving, once again, that Mozart is timeless.

The legacy of a musician such as Mozart is measured in many ways, including in part, the accomplishments of students and those who came after him. JOSEPH EYBLER (1765-1846) was a pupil of Johan Georg Albrechtsberger and a respected friend of Mozart and Haydn, the former also gave him lesson. Mozart utilized Eybler’s choral skills to help coach the singers in (and conduct performances of) Cosi fan tutte K.588. The friendship between Mozart and Eybler appears to have been one of honesty, modesty and devotion. As Eybler put it: “I had the good fortune to keep his friendship without reservation until he died, and carried him, put him to bed and helped to nurse him during his last painful illness.” Mozart’s respect for von Eybler is documented in a testimonial written on 30 May 1790:

“I, the undersigned, attest herewith that I have found the bearer of this, Herr Joseph Eybler, to be a worthy pupil of his famous master Albrechtsberger, a well-grounded composer, equally skilled at chamber music and the church style, fully experienced in the art of the song, also an accomplished organ and clavier player; in short a young musician such, one can only regret, as so seldom has his equal.”
Wolfgang Amade’ Mozart, Kapellmeister in Imperial Service.
Von Eybler became Kapellmeister at the Carmelite Church in 1792 and advanced to the same post at the more prestigious Schottenkloster in Vienna in 1794. A position that he held for 30 years, before succeeding Salieri as Court Kapellmeister in 1824.

Eybler_die_vier.jpgHis Werkverzeichnis includes two oratorios: "The Shepherds at the Crib in Bethlehem” and Die vier letzten Dinge (The Four Last Things): Oratorio in 3 parts - CPO 7770242 (2 CDs) Libretto: Joseph von Sonnleithner. Elisabeth Scholl;Markus Schaefer; Peter Kooij;Rheinische Kantorei;Das Kleine Konzert; Hermann Max, conducting.

It is often said that the legacy of Mozart and Haydn is personified in the music of Joseph von Eybler. Die vier letzten Dinge clearly reflects the influence of these two great masters. It also demonstrates the true gift of a teacher, the freedom for students to take what they learn and make it their own. Mozart recognized Eybler’s ability in choral and vocal writing, which is creatively and wonderfully rendered in this oratorio and its great originality. Composed in 1810 as a commission for Emperor Francis I, Die vier letzten Dinge, continues the legacy of the German-language oratorio begun by Josef Haydn. It is a work in three parts: the end of the world, the resurrection, the Last Judgment and the redemption of the blessed.

Hermann Max directs this unknown masterpiece with the Rheinische Kantorei and Das Kleine Konzert. Together they perform the work with soloists including world-renowned German soprano and sister of Andreas Scholl, Elisabeth Scholl, and along with Mark Schaefer and Peter Kooij. The musical style is faithfully rendered. The vocal performances are a delight for the ear. One needs to only sit and enjoy the legacy of Mozart in the hands of Joseph von Eybler.


Geraldine M. Rohling

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):