When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died on December 5, 1791, the world did not mourn his passing. The boy genius was buried in a pauper's grave in Vienna. But Mozart's music had a perverse staying power and, two hundred years after his death, the composer whose profound genius was counterbalanced by his overweaning lust and childish fascination with flatulence has achieved the rarest form of immortality.
This year the international music world celebrates the bicentennial of Mozart's death with a fervor that is astounding. Music festivals from Salzburg to Toronto and from London to San Francisco are building their repertoires around Mozart's music. Don't think, for one second, that they're just doing this to pay tribute to a genius.
Just like sex, Mozart sells.
The impact of this composer's creativity on our present day society takes on an especially curious significance when compared to American history. Mozart's genius was allowed to flourish because he was lucky enough to find sponsors. During his life, however, there was no system of court patronage in America.
Having rebelled against the tyranny of Great Britain's King George III, the United States was nearing its 15th birthday. Although Benjamin Franklin had invented a musical instrument (the glass harmonica) for which Mozart wrote two exquisite pieces, the economic hardships of colonial life left little room for frivolity.
Little, if any of Mozart's music was known to Americans (there were no concert halls, opera houses or performing arts centers dotting the landscape). And most of North America was undeveloped wilderness. "Because of how this country was pioneered, the United States had to do 250 years of social building that had no real arts influences until the end of the 1800s. That's when Americans started forming orchestras and opera companies," explains conductor Richard Buckley.
Times have changed.
Millions of Americans recently watched the PBS broadcasts of Peter Sellars' controversial stagings of three Mozart operas. Don Giovanni was relocated to the South Bronx; The Marriage of Figaro took place in a Manhattan penthouse and Cosi Fan Tutte was set in a New England diner owned by a disillusioned Viet Nam veteran. There is a great irony to be found in the fact that any one of Sellars' productions -- set in an environment Mozart could never have imagined -- reached more people in one night than Mozart reached in his entire lifetime. And yet, in Megatrends 2000, John Naisbitt suggests that "Sometime soon, on a crisp Sunday afternoon in autumn, a rugged American husband will call over a few of his buddies, sit down in front of the TV, open a six-pack of beer, and watch Mozart's acclaimed opera The Marriage of Figaro."
To whet the appetites of B.A.R.'s dedicated Mozart freaks and frequent flyers, I've compiled a list of operatic performances scheduled to take place in the next few months in cities throughout North America. If you're one of those people who just can't get enough of that funky Mozart stuff, why not check out the action in the following cities:
BRIDGEPORT: Connecticut Grand Opera presents The Magic Flute on May 4 at Klein Auditorium. For tickets, call (203) 367-8312.
CHICAGO: Lincoln Opera presents Don Giovanni on May 19 & 25 at Mundelein College Auditorium. For tickets, call (312) 549-3249.
DAYTON: Dayton Opera presents The Impresario on April 14, 18 & 19 at Memorial Hall. For tickets, call (513) 228-SING.
DETROIT: Michigan Opera Theater presents The Magic Flute on April 27, May 1 & 4 at Masonic Temple. For tickets, call (313) 874-SING.
EAST LANSING: Opera Company of Mid-Michigan presents The Magic Flute on May 10, 11 & 12 at Fairchild Theatre. For tickets, call (517) 482-1431.
FT. LAUDERDALE: Fort Lauderdale Opera presents The Marriage of Figaro on May 13, 15 & 18 at the Broward Performing Arts Center. For tickets, call (305) 728-9700.
HOUSTON: Houston Grand Opera presents Cosi Fan Tutte on April 18, 27, 30 & May 3; Don Giovanni on April 10, 13, 21 & 25; La Clemenza di Tito on April 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 30, May 2 & 4; The Magic Flute on April 5, 9, 12, 20, 24, 26 & May 5 and The Marriage of Figaro on April 19, 23, 28 & May 1. All performances at the Wortham Theater Center. For tickets, call (713) 227-ARTS or (800) 828-ARTS.
KNOXVILLE: Knoxville Opera presents Don Giovanni on April 5 & 7 at Civic Auditorium. For tickets, call (615) 523-8712.
LITTLE ROCK: Opera Theater at Wildwood presents Don Giovanni on June 6, 9 & 14. For tickets, call (501) 821-7281.
LOS ANGELES: Los Angeles Music Center Opera presents Cosi Fan Tutte on April 8, 13, 15, 17 & 20 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. For tickets, call (213) 480-3232.
MADISON: Madison Opera presents Don Giovanni on April 12 & 14 at the Oscar Mayer Theater. For tickets, call (608) 238-8085.
MILWAUKEE: Florentine Opera of Milwaukee presents The Marriage of Figaro on April 25, 27 & 28 at Uihleen Hall. For tickets, call (414) 273-1474.
MODESTO: Townsend Opera Players present Cosi Fan Tutte on April 13, 19 & 21 at the Modesto High School Theater. For tickets, call (209) 523-6426.
NASHVILLE: Nashville Opera presents The Marriage of Figaro on May 4, 5, 7, 8 & 9 at the Polk Theatre. For tickets, call (615) 741-2787.
NEW YORK: The Metropolitan Opera presents La Clemenza di Tito on April 8, 11, 16 & 20 at the Metropolitan Opera House. For tickets, call (212) 362-6000. Opera Ebony presents Cosi Fan Tutte on April 20 & 22 at Aaron Davis Hall. For tickets, call (212) 650-4100. Indiana University Opera Theatre presents La Finta Giardiniera on May 8 at the Juilliard Opera Theatre. For tickets, call (212) 874-7515.
OMAHA: Opera Omaha presents The Magic Flute on April 3, 5 & 7 at the Orpheum Theatre. For tickets, call (402) 346-0357.
PHILADELPHIA: The Pennsylvania Opera Theater presents Idomeneo on May 8, 10 & 11 at the Shubert Theater. For tickets, call (800) 233-4050.
RENO: Nevada Opera presents Don Giovanni on April 18 & 20 at the Pioneer Theater for the Arts. For tickets, call (702) 784-7144.
ST. LOUIS: Opera Theater of St. Louis presents Mitridarte, Re Di Ponto on May 30, June 1, 5, 7, 16 & 22 at the Loretto-Hilton Theatre. For tickets, call (314) 961-0644.
ST. PAUL: Minnesota Opera presents Cosi Fan Tutte on May 17, 18, 21, 23, 25, 26, 31 & June 1 at the World Theater. For tickets, call (612) 221-0256.
SAN FRANCISCO: The San Francisco Opera presents Cosi Fan Tutte on June 14, 18, 20, 23, 26 & 29; The Magic Flute on June 1, 4, 7, 13, 16 & 22 and The Marriage of Figaro on June 2, 6, 9, 15, 19 & 21 at the War Memorial Opera House. Also: Lucio Silla on June 28 & 30 at Masonic Auditorium and La Finta Giardiniera on June 30 at Stern Grove. For tickets, call (415) 864-3330.
SEATTLE: Seattle Opera presents Don Giovanni on May 4, 5, 8, 10, 11 & 15 at the Seattle Opera House. For tickets, call (206) 443-4711.
STAMFORD: Connecticut Grand Opera presents The Magic Flute on April 27 at the Palace Theatre. For tickets, call (203) 359-0009.
SYRACUSE: Syracuse Opera presents Don Giovanni on April 26 & 28 at the Crouse-Hinds Concert Theatre. For tickets, call (315) 47-OPERA.
TORONTO: Canadian Opera Company presents Apollo & Hyacinthus on April 28 at the Imperial Oil Opera Theater. For tickets, call (416) 363-2348. The company stages Cosi Fan Tutte on June 1, 4, 6, 8, 13, 16, 20 & 22 and La Clemenza di Tito on June 5, 7, 9, 11, 15, 18 & 21 at the newly-renovated Elgin Theatre and presents The Marriage of Figaro on June 14, 17, 19, 23, 25, 27 & 29 at the O'Keefe Center. For tickets, call (416) 872-2262.
* * * * * * * * * *
This "Tales of Tessi Tura" column originally appeared in the Bay Area Reporter on March 28, 1991