Spring has sprung and you know what that means. A gentle breeze has started to blow and it is whispering, “Mainly Mozart Festival.”
Mainly Mozart music director Michael Francis was in town and we had a chance to chat for a spell. I, being that type of person, pitched him on the idea of adding concert versions of Mozart’s operas to the festival.
Why not? Michael Francis is a kind and forgiving man.
Bastien und Bastienne, overture
I started selling the idea of Mozart’s operas being performed with emerging artists and piano accompaniment when he said, “You know what we’re doing the first concert, don’t you? We’re doing Bastien und Bastienne.”
Without my having to say it, Francis perceived the direction I was heading and took up the topic of Mozart’s operas and their importance to understanding the composer.
“I totally agree. The operas and piano concertos are probably Mozart at his purist. We’re starting a six-year journey through his [Mozart's] life. You’ve got to look at the operas. You get a real sense of him in the operas. He’s such a wonderful observer of the human condition.”
“Mozart must have seen so much by the age of 16 or 18. He did all those incredible travels with his father. He was watching people, observing, seeing different operas, constantly soaking it all in like a sponge. He learned not just how to flavor an emotion but how to create something underneath.”
“Even in Bastien und Bastienne there is a sense of parody. There’s a complete awareness of how ridiculous the pastoral tradition had become. Underneath there is something more fun, which is the artifice of theater. That a 12-year-old can get a hold of that type of Brechtian quality — it’s quite astonishing.”
Besides Bastien und Bastienne, written when Mozart was 12 years old, the festival is adding a stage production of The Other Mozart. This one-woman play is the story of Mozart’s older sister, Nannerl Mozart. There is only one performance.
Full festival information is available at the Mainly Mozart website.