Sunday, September 30, 2012

Magic, Music, Mozart

On September 30th, 1791, Mozart's fantasy opera, Die Zauberflöte, K.620 was premiered in Vienna's  Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden which was owned and operated by Mozart's good friend and fellow Freemason, Emanuel Schikaneder (who was also the librettist for the piece as well as the first Papageno). Mozart wrote to his wife Constanze (who was with her sister, Sophie, at the spa in Baden), "I have this moment returned from the opera, which was as full as ever", he wrote on 7 October, listing the numbers that had to be encored. "But what always gives me the most pleasure is the silent approval! You can see how this opera is becoming more and more esteemed." It is quite unfortunate, however, that Mozart didn't get to see the success and popularity that his opera gained with the Viennese public, for it was only a few weeks later, in early November that Mozart took to his bed with his final illness and died early in the morning on December 5th.

 The Magic Flute is noted for the many Masonic elements and symbolism within the libretto, costumes, characters, and scenery and is also laden with elements of 18th century Enlightenment philosophy, with the Queen of the night representing resistance to Enlightenment (some believing that she is the representation of the Catholic Church and the anti-Masonic Empress Maria Theresa who persecuted Freemasonry). Sarastro is the enlightened sovereign who rules according to the enlightened principles of reason, wisdom, and nature. The story reflects the progression of humanity as Princess Pamina and Prince Tamino go through the various trials in order that they may learn and grow and eventually attain enlightenment.

Its first London premiere wasn't until 1811, with Nancy Storace's common law husband, John Braham, singing the tenor role of Tamino.

The following videos feature baritone Simon Keenlyside as Papageno and soprano Diana Damrau as the Queen of the Night.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A most productive period

In the early spring of 1786, during the same time that Le Nozze di Figaro was in rehearsal (just prior to its May 1st premiere), Mozart was busy composing two of his greatest piano concertos, No. 23 in A major, K. 488 and No. 24 in C minor, K. 491. These two concertos are considered two of the "moodiest" of his piano works because they moved from sullen and melancholy to bright and hopeful sometimes within a single movement. Number 23 contains a second movement composed in F# minor where the piano enters alone with a melancholic theme, followed by the orchestra carrying the mood further until it reaches a new point where the mood brightens in the A major section. Could this have been reflective of things going on in the composer's life at the time? Who knows? But this very successful period in Mozart's life would soon be followed by turmoil in his professional life, the departure of his English friends (including Nancy Storace), from Vienna, the death of his father, Leopold, estrangement from his sister, Nannerl,  financial difficulties, the birth of four more children (with the loss of three), and in just a little less than five years, his own sudden illness and death.

Featured here is the Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Still one of my favorites: Part II

As I mentioned in yesterday's post regarding Mozart's comic opera, Cosi fan tutte, although this opera was premiered in Vienna on 26 January, 1790, its first English performance didn't occur until May of 1811, when it opened at the King's Theater in Covent Garden (now the Royal Opera House), with Nancy Storace's common law husband, John Braham, singing the lead tenor role of Ferrando. Braham, who is considered the greatest tenor England has ever produced, was described as having a smooth, velvety, clear, tone that could illicit extreme emotion from his listeners. A short, stocky, man of Jewish heritage, John Braham, was orphaned at the age of eight and kept himself alive on the streets of London by selling pencils. He would sing out a chant to the wealthy passers-by and by doing so, he was discovered by a Jewish opera singer who took him in and sent him to the Synagogue in London to be trained as a descant singer. From there, he was taken in by a wealthy Jewish family, who later sent him to Bath to study with the famous castrato, Vinanzio Rauzzini, who had been Nancy Storace's voice instructor when she was a child.

You can read even more about this fascinating man in Nancy's life by reading the second of my So Faithful a Heart novels, When Love Won't Die: The Continuing Story. It is published in a special edition which includes the first book The Love Story of Nancy Storace & Wolfgang Mozart, in both paperback and Kindle versions.

The tenor aria Un'aura amorosa, from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, is performed here by tenor Topi Lehtipuu. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Still one of my favorites

The last of Mozart's operas with a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, Cosi fan tutte, was given only five performances in Vienna, mostly due to the fact that Emperor Joseph II died during its run in 1790. Its first British performance was in May of 1811 at the King's Theater, with Nancy Storace's common law husband, John Braham, singing the lead tenor role of Ferrando.

It is believed that Mozart may perhaps have had Nancy Storace in mind for the role of Despina, as she and her brother, Stephen, along with several other of their British colleagues were working to present Mozart with a commission for two new Italian operas for the King's Theater in London. The commission arrived while Mozart was away on his last German tour in the fall of 1790, and for reasons not really known, he declined it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

So much happening!

Seeing that my last post was nearly a year ago, I thought it a good idea to post an update on what has been going on not only with my book but with me personally during 2012.

My last post (in October 2011), announced the book signing/launch that was to take place in February of 2012, and I'm pleased to announce that it was a huge success! Hastings reported that it was the most successful signings that they had ever had, and the week following the signing, I tied for the store's second-bestselling author! Many thanks to my partner, S.K. Waller for all her efforts in the publicity, press reports, preparations, and for hosting the launch party in our home afterwards. It was truly amazing, and a wonderful time was had by all.

On a personal note, you may or may not have noticed that I've changed my profile picture. That's because in November of 2011, I started on a journey to loose 100+ pounds. I was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes), and was well on my way to type II diabetes if I didn't do something drastic to reverse it. Two weeks before Thanksgiving I started on a diabetic-friendly, whole foods diet and a healthy low-impact exercise plan, and as of last week I have lost 93 pounds. By my book signing in February, I had lost nearly 40. So I'm looking and feeling pretty great these days. I still have about 30 or so pounds to lose, but I'm well on my way now!

So Faithful a Heart: Special Edition has now sold over 200 copies (print and Kindle Editions combined), and I've been invited to do a book lecture/signing at the OK Mozart festival in June of 2013. There are several new reviews on Amazon, and several more coming. Check them out! They're great!