Mozart Rules From Salzburg to Santiago
SALZBURG, Austria – This cobblestoned and turreted city of his birth is pulling out all the stops to celebrate Mozart’s 250th birthday Friday. But not only Austria is seized with Mozart madness.
Symphony orchestras and opera houses worldwide are going through final rehearsals while radio program directors line up their Mozart CDs. Piano students are polishing pieces for Mozart marathons and puppeteers are preparing for jubilee performances as hundreds of cities across five continents prepare to pay their respects to the musical genius.
For many, Mozart Central will be Salzburg, where he was born on Jan. 27, 1756.
Always a trove for Mozart souvenirs, Salzburg has outdone itself this year. Store shelves are stocked with Mozart beer and wine, Mozart baby bottles, Mozart milkshakes, Mozart knickers and Mozart jigsaw puzzles √≥ along with the usual T-shirts, calendars and coffee mugs.
But on Friday, the music’s the thing. Among the most interesting Salzburg offerings: Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Vienna Philharmonic play Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 18, before Riccardo Muti takes to the podium and leads the orchestra √≥ and renowned signers √≥ through their paces in a collage of his works.
Vienna, which claims Mozart in his later years, is staging a new production of his “Idomeneo” in one of the city’s three opera houses and reviving “The Magic Flute” in another.
Both cities are offering either musical or culinary tours built around Mozart’s works, his favorite restaurants, his friends and enemies, and his approach to art and love.
But the immortal Mozart will rule elsewhere as well.
He’ll be the focus of a 12-hour Swedish documentary, his works will be performed by orchestras or opera houses in Moscow, Washington, Prague, London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Caracas, Quito, Havana, Mexico City, Taipei, Budapest and scores of other cities worldwide.
Even Nashville, more famous for country music than Mozart, will tip its hat to Amadeus, with the city’s symphony orchestra performing his Piano Concerto No. 21.
And there are hundreds of other offerings.
Many classical radio outlets in the United States and elsewhere are reprogramming for the day to play only Mozart. Hundreds of marionettes will take to the stage in excerpts of his operas in the German city of Augsburg, where his father was born.
Vienna has set up 50 bright red “Calling Mozart” booths to allow visitors to listen to his works and information about his life and times. It will formally reopen the restored house where he wrote “The Marriage of Figaro.”
Salzburg visitors are advised to watch the calories. Bakers were putting the icing Thursday on a gargantuan birthday cake √≥ about 300 pounds.
Too much hoopla? Consider this: Mozart wrote his first symphonies before turning 10 and his first significant opera at 12. He was instrumental in changing opera into the form we know and enjoy today.
He was prolific like few others, creating nearly two dozen operas and other stage works and hundreds of solo and orchestral pieces before his death at 35. Other greats like Beethoven and Wagner publicly recognized their debt to him.
There is some comfort, however, for those who feel Mozart mania is out of control √≥ he had his detractors.
Some history books depict his tenure in Salzburg ending ingloriously in 1781 with a kick in the bottom from a servant of Mozart’s patron, the city’s imperious archbishop, after Mozart refused to follow orders on how to compose.
But for mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager, Mozart is “a gift from God” and “the light I orient my life around.”
Others describe him in more down-to-earth terms (and his letters certainly reveal an exuberant personality and scatological sense of humor) as they explain why he can reach out even to those normally immune to classical music.
Mozart Rules From Salzburg to Santiago