What Is It About Mozart? Oswego Opera Theatre Provides An Answer

OSWEGO, NY – The second of Oswego Opera Theatre’s two new offerings for the spring season, “Mozart’s Leading Ladies and Gentlemen,” comes on April 18 at 2 p.m. in a program of highlight music from the great operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The concert performance will be given at First United Methodist Church in Oswego, 7111 State Route 104 West, just past and to the south of the main entrance to SUNY Oswego.

How is it that one man, even if he is “beloved of God,” created the two greatest operas ever written?

He wrote them in the space of late October 1785 to the end of the summer 1787 (not the only pieces he was working on of course – there are 35 published works in between them), while he was between the ages of 29 and 31.

Of course we have our ABCs of Opera – Aida, La Boheme, Carmen – and many more wonderful operas that grace the world stages year after year; I won’t make a list, some highly deserving composer and work will be left out.

Yet if one asks most musicians and opera lovers, even if they live and die by Puccini, they will usually say, yes, the greatest are The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.

Both by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Then we are confronted by two more operas – Così fan tutte (“Thus do they all”) and the fairy-tale-laced-with-humanitarianism-and-democratic-ideals  The Magic Flute, from 1790 and 1791, right at the end of his 35-year life.

Two comedies, two dramas with comedic content.

Six of Oswego Opera Theatre’s singing artists will bring essential arias and ensembles from these operas to life in the intimate setting of the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church.

Various scenes and other arias, duets, trios (and even a sextet) from these operatic masterpieces will be sung by sopranos Kathleen Magee, Angela Libertella Calabrese and Elisabeth Kisselstein, tenor Eric Rieger, and bass-baritones Jimi James and David O’Donnell.

Our sopranos all sang major roles in Oswego Opera Theatre’s Fall 2009 production of “Opera Love Stories.”

Magee was heard as Virtue (The Coronation of Poppea) and Adina (The Elixir of Love) in Oswego Opera’s Fall 2009 production, “Opera Love Stories.”  She will return to sing Adina in Oswego Opera’s complete production of The Elixir of Love during the 2010-2011.

Calabrese appeared as Amor (The Coronation of Poppea) and Norina (Don Pasquale), and will return to sing Giannetta in The Elixir of Love.

Kisselstein sang Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor last fall.

The men are new to our programming, but hardly newcomers to the opera stage.

Rieger will be singing Lindoro/Count Almaviva in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” in Brussels, Belgium, right after this Oswego concert, and will return as Nemorino in The Elixir of Love.

James is well-known to Central New York audiences and has just sung Alfio in Mascagni’s “Cavalleria rusticana” and Tonio/Taddeo in Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci” with Baltimore Concert Opera.

Highlights of James’ recent season included recitals in New York and New Hampshire, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, and appearances with Nashua Symphony Orchestra, and Young Victorian Theater.

He will return to Oswego Opera as Sgt. Belcore in The Elixir of Love.

O’Donnell recently sang in the European premiere of Mark Adamo’s Little Women, performing the role of John Brooke.

He has sung with Opera Lancaster, Capitol Opera Harrisburg, Harrisburg Opera Association, Eastman Opera Theater, and Messiah College Opera Theater, performing such roles as Schicchi (Gianni Schicchi), Silvio (Pagliacci), Morales (Carmen), Marullo (Rigoletto), Lt. Wright (The Secret Garden), and Beppo (Paganini).

It requires exceptional singers to answer the question, “What is it about Mozart?”

We all react to Mozart on conscious and subconscious levels, it appears.

The perfection and accessibility of the music itself is immediately “there” as Salieri points out in the 1984 Best Picture Academy Award-winning “Amadeus,” one cannot alter a single note without diminishing the music.

Deeper though is how Mozart, for the first time in operatic history, created compelling characters in the music.

Each character sings music that bares his or her soul, raising what is beautiful to the sublime, fast or slow, loud or soft.

Another film (which according to my family should have won the Oscar instead of “Forrest Gump”) where the sublime emerges is in “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Remember when Andy (Tim Robbins) locks himself in the warden’s office and puts on an opera recording, to which Red (Morgan Freeman) says he doesn’t understand the words, but he gets the feeling?

The duet is between the Countess and Susanna from The Marriage of Figaro, where they are simply composing a letter.

Composing-a-letter-music, which takes the prison inmates for a few moments outside their physical prison.

This is Sull’aria, Che soave zeffretto -  “When the gentle breezes blow . . .” – and we will have it and much more for you on Sunday April 18.

Tickets for Mozart’s Leading Ladies and Gentlemen are adult $10 and student/child $5.

All public, private, home school and college educators may purchase tickets for $7, and family packages are available at $25 and $20 with additional adults at $7 and additional students/children at $3.

Seating is very limited, and early orders are recommended.

Tickets may be ordered by mail at Oswego Opera Theatre, PO Box 3039, Oswego 13126, or by email at [email protected]

Tickets will also be available at the door.

For more information, go to www.OswegoOpera.org or call 315-638-1085.