Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mozart operas, staged hither & yon

The Queen of the Night from a production of Mo...
The Queen of the Night from a production of Mozart's 'The Magic Flute' by the Salzburg Marionette Theatre
On yesterday's date in 1877, the Vienna Philharmonic first visited Salzburg, to perform at a music festival that included works of Mozart. Then in 1906, the entire Vienna Court Opera arrived for a gala staged performances of his Marriage of Figaro, conducted by Gustav Mahler, and Cosi fan tutte, conducted by Richard Strauss. Can you imagine?? In 1920, the annual summertime Salzburg Music Festival was officially established, and Mozart's music remains central to the programming.
Tonight I'm heading out to see The Magic Flute with the Ash Lawn Summer Opera of Charlottesville, VA. They used to perform on a stage between two huge trees at the mountaintop home of James Monroe. It was charming in many respects, but among the challenges faced by the singers were the crepuscular calls of the crickets, the urgent lowing of the cows in an adjacent meadow, and the often sweltering heat. They've thrown in the towel on that venue, and relocated to the cool and splendidly renovated Paramount Theater in the downtown mall (which used to be Main Street). I recommend a road trip if you're into this sort of thing!
English: Caricature drawings satirising the co...
Caricatures satirizing Mahler's conducting style when he was director of the Vienna State Opera
From writing the CD blurbs for the web and for upcoming Daedalus catalogs, I've been fortunate enough to hear a great many stellar recordings featuring Mozart's operas—many of them historic. Whether you're a neophyte or an opera maven, I think you'll enjoy these selections: Everybody's Mozart: Highlights from The Magic Flute & Cosi fan tutte; Cecilia Bartoli: Mozart Portraits; Mozart: Great Opera Moments I & II; and The Ultimate Mozart Album: Mozart's Greatest Love Songs.
As with any music offerings, if you have questions or are on the fence, just ask about the item and I'll do my best to help out.
Below: Ash Lawn Opera outdoors vs. indoors: each has its virtues.


  1. I've never listened to or seen an opera, ever, but I have heard from more than one person that The Magic Flute is spectacular. Of the CDs you mentioned, it seems that two have selections from this opera. Which would you recommend as an introduction, Everybody's Mozart or Great Opera Moments I? In particular I have heard about an aria that involves hell boilething in someone's heart, unless I'm confusing things. Do either of those CDs have that song?

    1. I would get the Everybody's Mozart highlights of the two operas - for $5 you can't go wrong. You can find the synopsis online if they don't have it in the CD booklet (I can't remember), and you can also find the libretto translations so you can follow along and know what they're singing about and why they're singing they way they are--charming comedy in the case of Papageno, crazy with fiery emotion in the case of the Queen of the Night(in the Magic Flute). The aria by her you are thinking of is Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen ("The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart,
      Death and despair flame about me!") And in Cosi, there's rhapsodic, lyrical love music as well as a brilliant parody of earlier opera seria in a virtuosic coloratura aria by one of the sisters -- Fiordiligi, I think.
      Where do you live? you should go see an opera!! They're so fun.
      Also, there's an incredible amount on youtube for free. I have watched multiple versions of the Q of the N's aria for "hell" of it, so to speak.

    2. Thanks for the advice! I'm excited to branch out a bit from my usual listening.

  2. Interestingly enough, there was a really neat book published last year by Matt Rees called "Mozart's Last Aria." It'd be a great historical fiction companion to "Hell's Revenge."

  3. I always learn such interesting things reading the Daily Glean. I really like the picture of the night queen. Also outdoor stages are sometimes a hassel but they are amazing if the cast in the production is interactive with the crowd. I love those kinds of outdoor things.