Is there any better month than May to fill your ears with the fresh and bubbling music of history’s most famous Salzburg prodigy? “No, there isn’t,“says Solveig Steinhardt, as Don Giovanni begins singing.
A whole month dedicated to the works of the boy genius of Salzburg, aka Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
In the early 1990s, various scientists around the world observed that Mozart’s music makes babies more intelligent, buffalos that listen to Mozart three times a day produce better milk, and students do better on math tests if they listen to Mozart beforehand. The “Mozart effect” was later partly confuted, but what’s for certain is that Mozart’s music is good for us for one very primordial reason: It makes us feel good. Barrie Kosky knows this very well, and as soon as he became art director of the Komische Oper (p. 54) in 2012, he established a whole month every year dedicated to the eclectic genius and his operas.
This year’s Mozart May program includes two chamber concerts and six different operas, all represented in unique, surprising ways in line with the opera house’s young and eccentric style. In the fiancée-swapping Così Fan Tutte, for example, Alvis Hermanis treats Lorenzo Da Ponte’s farce about love and betrayal as a tragicomedy with a melancholy and pictorial setting, alternating modern workplaces and art galleries. Meanwhile, the world’s favorite rapist and murderer, Don Giovanni, is depicted frivolously by Herbert Frisch in a controversial German-language version.
The Komische Oper also presents the opera seria Lucio Silla, written when Mozart was only 16. Filled with moments of bravura and demanding arias, this rare masterpiece is comparable in maturity and beauty to the composer’s later, more famous works, and tells the story of the dictator who determined the fall of the Roman Empire. For three hours of pure family entertainment, don’t miss Kosky’s rendition of The Magic Flute. With a set comprised of dark cartoon animation, oneiric costumes and scenes, and all of the Singspiel’s recitatives shortened and projected on screen in silent-film-style, this is a delightful performance you will want to see more than once. For even more Mozart, on 10 May the Konzerthaus (p. 54) presents its yearly Mozart Marathon, “a festival of works and words” by the Austrian genius.