The world marks many an anniversary but none is the cause for a celebration as lavish and as ubiquitous as Mozart’s 250th.
Somewhat strangely, the composer never made it to Russia. Indeed, he traveled pretty much everywhere in Europe and spent a quarter of his life on the road. In fact, less than three months before Mozart’s passing Russia’s Great Duke Razumovsky and Prince Potemkin discussed the possibility of bringing the composer to Russia.
Despite the maestro’s conspicuous absence, his music struck deep roots in Russia, in the rival capital cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg and in provinces alike.
As a matter of fact, in those days, geographic borders were very much transparent in Europe’s cultural continuum: just like Mozart, Russian composers (and more or less at the same time) would train in Italy. Russian travelers were exposed to Mozart’s music very early - already in 1781 the Great Duke (later Tsar Paul I) attended a musical playing contest between Mozart and Clementi in Vienna.
Throughout the first three decades of the 19th century, the repertoire of just one Russian theatre – the German musical theatre in St. Petersburg – included not one or two but seven operas by Mozart. The composer’s popularity greatly benefited from the publishing of his works to the point where his music quickly became a household staple and a requisite component of an aristocrat’s education.
With a brief period of relative seclusion within the confines of the Conservatory in the early 20th century, Russia has been a consistent Mozartland since it discovered the great Austrian.
These days, as the musical (and not only) world celebrates Mozart’s anniversary Russia will not be outdone. Major music events are galore and it is all about Mozart here.
Thus, the Greek Theodor Kurrentzis who, in just a few short years, has become an idol to Moscow’s music connoisseurs has offered Le Nozze di Figaro and Cosi Fan Tutte for two nights in a row and with a cast consisting primarily of Russian talent. Moscow was left breathless and for a good reason: rather than guests at somebody else’s party, this time Muscovites felt like they were playing host in the house of Mozart.
Never a slouch to experiment, Maestro Kurrentzis then proceeded to perform Mozart’s Don Giovanni – in Moscow – with all the parts sung by Westerners and with a ‘guest’ orchestra. Despite coming perilously close to a nervous breakdown, Kurrentzis pulled it off for a first-rate performance. The mischievous Austrian could have been smiling from above that night.
Caving in to his wandering spirit, Theodor Kurrentzis also conducted a brilliant Le Nozze di Figaro in Novosibirsk, Siberia. There, he teamed up with the German director Tatiana Gurbaca to create an ironic, densely layered and thoroughly detailed performance. Placed ‘somewhere in the 20th century world', the production is innovative and features brilliant singing from an international cast, including Simone Alberghini, Veronika Jioeva, Anna Aglatova, and Valeria Vaigant.
What about Mozart’s hometown?
The Magic of Salzburg
It would seem that Europe is trying to play the entire Mozart catalog on this, 250th anniversary of his birth, making it almost meaningless to take an even brief look at the entire scene. One’s curiosity is probably best served by peeking inside the composer’s hometown.
(At least according to our own Alexei Parin), the surefire way of experiencing celestial bliss is to kick back on the upper floor of the cafe Tomaselli in Salzburg and, savoring a coffee and a slice of Apfelstrudel, watch the motley crowd flow down below.
The Salzburg Festival runs for four summer weeks from late July through the end of August and, this year, places a special focus on the hometown musical hero.
So star-studded has this summer been that even Anna Netrebko who took Salzburg by storm with her Donna Anna in Don Juan and who became a bona fide superstar with her last year’s rendition of La Traviata has found herself making room for other mega-talented singers. Netrebko’s Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro has to vie for admiration against Christine Schafer’s phenomenal Cherubino who, owing to the singer, emerged as the opera’s principal character.
Generally, conductors and female singers have been the brightest stars of Mozart's Salzburg, but not directors. In addition to the Russian beauty Netrebko and her Le Nozze di Figaro co-star Schafer, there are Germany’s Dorothea Roschman and Anja Harteros, and the Czech Republic’s Magdalena Kozena.
Among the conductors, the following commanded particular appreciation on the part of the discerning Salzburg opera-goers: Sir Roger Norrington (much beloved in Moscow) whose Idomeneo was vibrant and immediate as if it had barely come off the composer’s desk; Robin Ticciati, at 22 the youngest director in the festival’s substantial history, who did a brilliant job resuscitating Il Sogno di Scipione; the harsh and merciless Michael Hofstetter. The great Nikolaus Harnoncourt wrote his final chapter at Salzburg Le Nozze di Figaro and La Clemenza di Tito. In both pieces, he managed to lend the music a global humane dimension.
© DE I / DESILLUSIONIST #-1. “TWO AND A HALF CENTURIES LATER, THE WORLD STILL CANNOT HAVE ENOUGH OF MOZART”