Friday, February 21, 2014

The Research Behind the "So Faithful a Heart" Novel Series

My Anna Storace Website was created as a companion website for my Master's thesis/project on Anna "Nancy" Storace in 2000. This contains the results of the research I did on her at that time. This was the project that launched the 8 additional years of research that I put in to create my novel series entitled, So Faithful a Heart.

It was the view of the late Mozart historian, Alfred Einstein, that more existed between Mozart and Storace than what previous or current Mozart scholarship presented and I later learned that he based this belief on the transcripts of Nancy Storace's death inquest which brought up a visit to her estate in July of 1817 from "two German men" who were looking for some "letters from Vienna". Nancy was so upset by their visit that she suffered a stroke that same day and died as the result of complications several weeks later. It was later revealed that these two "German men" were sent by none other than Constanze Mozart's second husband, Georg Nissen. They were in the process of gathering and confiscating any and all information, letters, and artifacts that pertained to Mozart. This is most compelling because Constanze and Nissen were known to destroy any evidence that might show her or her late husband Wolfgang Mozart, in a bad or compromising light. Nancy's son (by the English tenor John Braham), later wrote to their good friend John Soane (famous English architect), that he may have inadvertently helped Nancy to destroy the letters, which he believed were from Mozart on that very same day that the "German men" came to their home, as she was going through some old papers and letters and burning them.

One of my major resources for my original research was a biography of Nancy (the only biography about her), entitled Anna Susanna: Mozart's Original Susanna, Her Life & Times, by an English musical layman by the name of Geoffrey Brace. Brace stated at the outset that he wasn't of the same opinion as Einstein about the Mozart/Storace relationship and that in his biography he wanted to separate her from Mozart and bring her to light on her own. It was a good basic resource and outline of her life, but in trying to prove his thesis, Brace intentionally left out the whole incident with the two German men as the major factor in the stroke that would lead to her death and he left out the inquest in which Nancy's maid testified to the incident, which was considered a major factor in her death. He also left out the letters between Nancy's son Spencer and Sir John Soane which discussed the incident. It was the current English conductor and Mozart historian, Jane Glover, whose research on the Storaces brought these things back to light. It was Glover who stated in her book Mozart's Women, that Mozart instructed Da Ponte to create the character of Susanna as a mirror image of Nancy Storace. She wouldn't go as far as to say that Mozart was in love with Nancy, as Alfred Einstein did, but she did say that Mozart was in love with Susanna and that Susanna was Mozart's "ideal woman".

© K. Lynette Erwin, 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

There's Nothing Like Mozart to Draw a Crowd

I live and work in a small community that is home to a major state university. While our university is large, and does have active and thriving arts and humanities departments, it is not known for them. It is primarily an agricultural university with a very large and popular sports program, especially when it comes to football and basketball. Right now we are in the middle of basketball season and I can tell you that on home game days, there is not a parking place to be found anywhere near or on campus. The town is almost literally shut down with the traffic. That's why it's so remarkable that while all of this is going on, one can still walk into the Seretean Center (which houses the music and theater departments), on a Friday night and find the large concert hall nearly packed out for an uncut student performance of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, sung in Italian, presented by the Oklahoma State University Music Department students and faculty.

I can also tell you that this production was one of the finest student productions of Figaro, that I have ever experienced, and believe me, I have seen many productions of Figaro, both professional and student. And in many respects, this student performance rivaled some of the professional productions that I have not only
seen, but in which I have performed. The orchestra was superb, the Italian diction was impeccable (and those Mozart recitatives are a bear), the singing and acting were magnificent. Although they were all outstanding, the standout performances for me were given by senior voice major, Bill Sheets as Count Almaviva, senior voice major, Lydia Bechtel, as Mozart's darling Susanna, and sophomore voice major, Brittany Wright, who charmed and delighted us all as the lovesick Cherubino. And special kudos to the principal bassoonist, Zac Bohanan, who carried off one of the most difficult and active bassoon parts in all of opera with professional finesse.

One other thing that this performance tells me: Opera is not dead. If you could have been in that concert hall last night and experienced the utter delight of that audience, heard the laughter, the cheering, the "Bravos" and "Bravas", the enthusiastic applause, and seen the energy, professionalism, and excitement of the
performers, there would be no doubt in your mind that as long as there are people who keep performing opera, there will be an audience. I have never known anything by Mozart that doesn't draw a crowd.

Bravo, OSU Music Department! You absolutely delighted this lover of Mozart!

P.S. For any locals who want to catch this performance, it is also being played tonight (Saturday, February 8th), with a second cast at the OSU Seretean Center concert hall. Curtain is at 7:30. General admission tickets are only $8.00 and $6.00 for senior citizens. Such a low price for such quality entertainment.

Photo Credit: S.K. Waller

UPDATE 2/9/14: We decided to attend the Saturday night performance so that we could see it with the second cast. Special recognition goes to Bernardo Medeiros for his outstanding performance in the title role of Figaro and to Renae Perry for her hilarious rendition of Marcellina. Well-done!

© K. Lynette Erwin, 2014